We live in an age-segregated society.
Kids spend their days at school, mostly among peers born the same year they were. Middle-aged adults cluster at work. And elders gather for clubs, classes, and meals that often expressly bar the young.
So unless they happen to be related, people at different stages of life rarely get the chance to enjoy and help one another. But pioneers around the country are working to change this.
Here are six exceptional initiatives that unite the young and the old for the common good:
This intentional community in North Portland houses 25 former foster children, their 9 adoptive parents, and 30 limited-income elders who step in as “grandparents.” The children and their parents live in townhomes, while the elders occupy independent apartments. The two adult generations team up to provide a nurturing environment for the children. Photo by Jan Sonnenmair; used with the permission of Bridge Meadows. 2.
DOROT • New York, New York
Tweens and teens play chess against elders at an after-school program run by DOROT, a nonprofit that aims to reduce social isolation among older New Yorkers. Participants from both generations range from advanced beginners to experts and commit to weekly sessions for a semester. Photo by Alan Awakim; used with the permission of DOROT.
While most daycare centers serve either children or elders, the cutting-edge St. Ann Center serves the two groups together. At least twice a day, young and old converge for activities such as balloon volleyball games, baking projects, and sing-alongs. The generations also mix in an indoor “park” and at holiday celebrations. Photo by Cathy Feldkamp; used with the permission of the St. Ann Center. 4.
Nesterly • Boston, Massachusetts
A digital startup, Nesterly introduces homeowners with spare rooms—generally elders—to young people looking for affordable housing. The company, which currently operates in Boston and is looking to expand to other cities, also helps the homeowners and their guests craft rental agreements spelling out each party’s expectations. Some guests perform household tasks in exchange for a rent reduction. Photo by Nesterly. 5.
AGE to age • Northeastern Minnesota
When the after-school program in Moose Lake faced budget cuts, elders stepped in to save it. Several afternoons a week, kids learn sewing, painting, gardening, and other skills from elder volunteers. Elders also volunteer with children as “Reading Pals.” The project is supported by the Northland Foundation in Duluth, which is revitalizing other rural communities in the region as well. Photo by Scott Streble courtesy of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation.
Residents of Asbury Methodist Village, a retirement community in Gaithersburg, team up with local officials to provide a variety of enrichment programs for children. Here, an Asbury resident and a middle-schooler create a mosaic together for Mentoring Through Art. Some programs bring children to Asbury, while others dispatch Asbury residents to schools. Photo by Hal Garman.