Many struggle to find a hopeful perspective and a helpful approach to the challenges of life. Neighbors live in isolation from one another, and programs trying to serve the needs of the old or the young are designed and implemented separately from one another. We believe there is hope in collaboration, in synergistically pairing the wisdom and experiences of our aging population with the energy of our younger population to create a sustainable community with a life of its own. There is hope in tapping the resources of faith communities and business sectors to address social problems, and we plan to do this through development of our Therapeutic Interactive Intergenerational Neighborhood (TIIN) model.
The TIIN Concept Seen in the Stories of Our Community
We have seen that the TIIN model adds unique value to residents, their families, and the broader community. We promote social connection across the generations through our built environment and programming. Shared grounds, gardens and spaces, combined with community meals and neighborhood activities create a wealth of opportunity for long term relationships to form. With the TIIN model, we also draw on the resources of faith communities and business sectors to help address social problems.
This is illustrated in the story of the Rice Family, who have become regular volunteers, currently serving together on the Board of Directors and various working committees.
The Rice Family
Carrie first learned about Hope & A Future through a Serve the City volunteer promotion at High Point Church. At the same time, she learned about an opportunity through her workplace, where employees were encouraged to set up service projects to benefit local nonprofits. She had the opportunity to engage volunteers from her church and her workplace in a finishing project to complete the space above the adult family home at Hope & A Future. Over the course of a year, with assistance from many volunteers, Over 700 square footage of unfinished space was converted into resident staff living quarters and a guest room.
Carrie enjoyed seeing colleagues and neighbors from different parts of her life work together in this local pioneering nonprofit organization. She also valued the opportunity to volunteer together as a family with her husband Mike and sons Derek and CJ. Her children have enjoyed interacting with the seniors in this community, and her husband has been tapped as a resource in a variety of writing and editing tasks to support communications needs of the organization. During 2017, both Carrie and Mike have served on the Board of Directors and have supported several working committees, including Communications and Events, Grants and Program Evaluation, and Program Development.
Stay tuned for more about the research on the health impacts of the TIIN model. For more information about the TIIN concept, please read on.
Carrie originally joined the Board of Directors in 2015, while organizing the service project through her workplace. She has come to appreciate the unique vision that Hope & A Future has for impacting its community. Carrie currently works the business world; however, her first career was spent working as an early childhood educator and program manager for Head Start. In this previous role, she served at-risk children and families from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds, including immigrant and refugee populations. She has always valued the holistic approach of Head Start, where both children and parents are served, and has seen the increased impact of community-based, integrated social services delivery models.
Mike and Carrie are glad to have played a role in the development of the Hope & A Future TIIN model. They have enjoyed including their extended family and community in volunteer efforts, including yard work, cooking, construction, special events-even inviting Grandpa Sherbeck to throw the first pitch at a Mallards Game.
Technical Research Supporting the TIIN Model
Based on a technical review of relevant literature, we have learned that intergenerational communities around the country have focused on pairing different target populations, including seniors, foster and adoptive families, and those living with disabilities (Kaplan et al., 2017). However, none of these programs have sought to serve young and old together in a staffed, purpose-built neighborhood.
Hope & A Future is developing the first Therapeutic Interactive Intergenerational Neighborhood (TIIN). Under this model, we expect to benefit seniors and low SES families with young children in a planned neighborhood. Community members will be engaged through participation in city-wide and neighborhood time-bank programs, activities and classes which encourage relationships to develop around mutual interests.
In order to learn from our community members, we have conducted interviews with residents, their families, and caregivers, and guardians as well as family members of former residents, volunteers, and neighbors. These conversations have uncovered several common themes, confirming our perspective on what Hope & A Future is providing to its residents and community members. We had three insights from these interviews:
1) Families of residents have had increased confidence in the care being provided.
2) Residents experienced increased health and quality of life. This is achieved in part, through decreased loneliness and increased social capital and resiliency. (More to come on these themes in future blog articles.)
3) The Therapeutic Interactive Intergenerational Neighborhood (TIIN) at Hope & A Future is distinct from other programs. It adds unique value to residents and the broader community. Bringing people together from different ages and backgrounds creates a unique mix of talents and resources known as social capital. This is illustrated well through Cami’s Story.
To help illustrate how the TIIN model is distinct from other programs, we’ve summarized below our Mission, Vision, and Program Model, and highlights from a literature review.
Our Program Model
Therapeutic--We will promote health by engaging residents and volunteers through their interests and abilities. We will promote music, the arts and gardening as creative and social outlets for people of all ages and abilities. Taking advantage of our low-density setting, which preserves and integrates outdoor spaces, we will encourage residents to take pride in where they live by participating in volunteerism.
Interactive--We believe people need to help as much as they need to be helped. We will facilitate a culture of volunteerism and healthy interdependence among resident and non-resident community members.
Intergenerational--Young and old will live side-by-side in intentional community, each benefiting from others’ strengths; to this end, we will facilitate relationships of mutual support between people of different generations and diverse backgrounds. Seniors and young people will mutually benefit as loneliness and social isolation is decreased, yielding improved physical, mental and situational well-being.
Neighborhood--We will preserve and integrate green spaces with a built environment that encourages stable, active, intentional community engagement. Healthy and frail seniors will be able to age in place, families with young children will gain a foundation that allows them to build toward a better future. Quality of life will improve as life is shared among neighbors.
Review of Technical Literature
We are working to create a staffed therapeutic context that benefits all community members as well as the surrounding neighborhood.
We are creating supportive community for seniors and families with young children. Earheart et al. (2009) note that an intentional, intergenerational neighborhood is therapeutic with increased well-being as a natural byproduct. Relationships fostered through the reciprocal exchange of social capital are the foundation for this therapeutic milieu (Earheart et al., 2009; Hopping, et al., 2013), and increased perceived social support is significantly linked with better health and longevity (Shor, et al. 2013). It is also known that intentional community impacts social determinants of health as outlined by the Commission on Social Determinants of Health framework.
This results in positive outcomes for residents. Kaplan, Sanchez, and Hoffman (2017) state, “…intergenerational programs and practices provide important avenues for protecting societies’ most cherished values. These values are tied to: how we can lead healthy, meaningful, caring, civically engaged, productive lives” (p. 186).
Kaplan et al. (2017) note that, the best bridge among people who perceive themselves to be dissimilar in race, gender, ethnicity, creed, and age is regular shared experience. Intergenerational programs have been shown to break down negative beliefs and stereotypes that different age cohorts hold about one another (Kaplan et al., 2017).
Thomas and Blanchard (2009) assert that seniors often fear a loss of independence and nursing home placement more than death. The concept of aging in place generally refers to staying in one’s home as long as possible (Baker, 2014), however aging in place does not necessarily equate with happiness as those who live in their own homes may still experience social isolation and loneliness. Thomas and Blanchard (2009) state, “aging in place with its dwelling-centric approach, relies heavily on dollar-denominated professional and paraprofessional services while offering older people little or no opportunity to create or deploy reserves of social capital” (p. 14).
Increasing numbers of seniors are moving into intentional communities with the expectation of reciprocal social relationships and support as they age (Baker, 2014). This model of post-retirement living is known as aging in place and is offered in the TIIN model. This includes living in an age-friendly built-environment with accommodations such as wheelchair access and opportunities for on-site activities and social gatherings (Baker, 2014). Intergenerational living offers many benefits to seniors including gaining a sense of purpose, improved health outcomes, and a wide social network of caring neighbors. It removes barriers to interaction with the broader community, allowing seniors to be a resource to others despite increasing limitations in their mobility.
The Impact of Promoting Volunteerism
Kaplan et al. (2017) notes that older adults who volunteered had a higher level of self-rated health as well as objectively better health outcomes compared to their non-volunteering counterparts. Adults who volunteered for purely altruistic reasons had a significant reduction in mortality risk after four years (Konrath, et al, 2012). Shannon and Robertson (2016) found that youths aged 8-12 who volunteered in their communities reported enhanced self-esteem, a sense of feeling valued, and greater self-confidence. Also, adolescents who volunteered in community settings were exposed to novel situations and societal issues that helped them develop a more nuanced worldview (Goethem, et al 2014). These adolescents were found to have benefited through social, academic, civic, and personal outcomes (Goethem et al, 2017).
Benefits to Society of Intergenerational Community
Intergenerational communities are an upstream solution which prevent detrimental outcomes and lower societal costs for both seniors and at-risk families. Enabling seniors to age in community longer decreases the need for expensive assisted living and skilled nursing facilities (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 2013). Providing low SES families with young children with the support they need to break the cycle of poverty allows them to become higher-earning and financially independent citizens whose children are more likely to be successful as well, thereby reducing taxpayer burden for government assistance (Ratcliffe, 2015; The White House, 2014). Furthermore, the evidence shows that lifting families out of poverty decreases the crime rate and incarceration costs (The White House, 2014; The White House, 2016). Both populations will see improved health outcomes, leading to individual healthcare dollar savings as well as decreased societal healthcare costs (Cohen & Iton, 2014; U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 2013).
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Written by members of the Hope & a Future community including residents, volunteers, and staff.