New Grant: Creating and Sustaining an Intergenerational Culture in Senior Housing

CFAR | February 27, 2018 | by Geralyn Magan

The LeadingAge LTSS Center @UMass Boston and Generations United are working together to foster a broader culture of intergenerational interaction and exchange that, overtime, becomes normalized in the housing setting.

A new grant from the Retirement Research Foundation (RRF) is helping the LeadingAge LTSS Center @UMass Boston and Generations United continue their work to support the development and implementation of high-quality intergenerational programming in senior housing communities nationwide.

“The project activities are designed to foster a broader culture of intergenerational interaction and exchange that, over time, becomes normalized in the housing setting,” says Dr. Taryn Patterson, policy research associate at the LTSS Center.

The new grant, which runs through January 2019, is the second phase of the “From Promise to Practice” research project that the LTSS Center and Generations United began in 2016.

During the first phase of the project, which was also funded by RRF, researchers explored the current landscape of intergenerational programming in senior housing by surveying and interviewing housing providers implementing intergenerational programs, and providers who were interested in, but not yet implementing, those programs.

Findings from the study’s first phase are included in a new report and research snapshot that the LTSS Center and Generations United released in February. The report provides detailed information about the characteristics of existing intergenerational programs, including their partners, staffing, participants, funding mechanisms, benefits, challenges, and strategies for success. The full report also includes brief profiles of a diverse group of intergenerational programs.

2018: Translating Research into Practice

During the second phase of the “From Promise to Practice” project, researchers will use the findings from phase 1 to develop, test, and disseminate a toolkit that housing communities can use to plan, develop, implement, evaluate, and sustain intergenerational programs.

The new project is also designed to build the capacity of national affordable housing providers to plan and implement high-quality intergenerational programs that positively impact older adults and members of younger generations. There is a growing interest among housing providers in using this type of programming to dispel negative age-related stereotypes, prepare a future workforce for the aging field, and improve the well-being of both older adults and youth, according to researchers.

“However, despite the existence of several long-standing and exemplary programs in the senior housing network, a gap exists between the promise of intergenerational programming and the level of intergenerational practice in most housing communities,” write Patterson and Dr. Nancy Z. Henkin, senior fellow at Generations United.

Over the next year, Patterson and Henkin will be working on 3 tasks designed to close that gap.

Developing an Intergenerational Toolkit

The toolkit that researchers develop will offer practical information, guidance, and templates to help housing providers:

  • Assess the needs and interests of residents and young people who might participate in intergenerational programs;
  • Conduct an environmental scan to identify potential community partners;
  • Build support for intergenerational programming among housing team members and outside partners;
  • Conduct shared planning to ensure that each partner contributes resources to, and enjoys benefits from, intergenerational programming; and
  • Address a variety of challenges cited by housing providers, including logistics, recruitment of youth and older adults, program design and evaluation, and strategies for creating and sustaining an intergenerational culture over time.

Building the Capacity of National Housing Providers

Leaders and program staff from 6 national affordable housing providers will participate in a learning collaborative facilitated by the research team. The learning collaborative will include representatives from these LeadingAge members:

  • Hebrew SeniorLife,
  • Jewish Community Housing for the Elderly,
  • Lutheran Senior Services,
  • National Church Residencies,
  • HumanGood, and
  • Volunteers of America.

Members of the learning collaborative will each develop an action plan for intergenerational programming that they will implement, on a pilot basis, in 1 or 2 of their respective housing communities. During the implementation process, group members will receive technical assistance from the project’s implementation team, and from one another. Group members will also review and provide feedback on the project’s toolkit as they navigate each step of the planning, implementation, and evaluation process.

Fostering Scalability of Intergenerational Programs

Researchers plan to foster the scalability of intergenerational programming in senior housing through wide dissemination of their toolkit and through an online community of housing providers that are implementing or want to implement high-quality intergenerational programs.

In addition, researchers hope to begin the process of developing a curriculum, designed for presentations at national conferences, which would raise awareness about intergenerational programming among housing providers, and provide education about planning, implementing, evaluating, and sustaining those programs.