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Retirement Communities Say 'Bring In the Kids!'

Intergenerational programs benefit all age groups

At the Mount in Seattle, residents are always welcome to drop in on any of the six classrooms. The architect designed the Mount's space to encourage spontaneous and formal encounters between the generations. Most of the doors in the child-care classrooms are kept open, except when the kids are napping. Some have a window at the top as well as at the bottom of the door, and along the walls, so residents in wheelchairs can see what's going on, and babies can look through and see them. Architects, senior housing professionals, gerontologists and early-childhood educators from around the world travel to the Mount to learn how the program works and how its architecture invites the two generations to connect.

NewBridge on the Charles in Massachusetts

That connection couldn't be more robust at NewBridge on the Charles, an independent, assisted living and long-term care facility in Dedham, Mass. Last September, a private K-8 Jewish day school moved to its 162-acre campus. Just a few months at its new location, NewBridge already has more than a dozen independently living residents who walk across the grounds to help in the classrooms, library and kindergarten classes at the Rashi School. "The teachers are thrilled to have the residents, and residents say it makes their week!" says Lynda Bussgang, NewBridge's Multigenerational Coordinator who is also the mother of Rashi students and daughter-in-law of NewBridge residents.

A multigenerational garden lies between the school and the retirement community, so when the Rashi School offered a gardening elective, NewBridge green thumbs helped teach, and the two generations worked in the garden together. This winter, they're growing seeds inside that they will plant in the spring. Middle-school students report regularly to the memory-support units in assisted living and long-term care, and share holidays. Their next initiative: starting a multigenerational fitness program.

The sweet sound of music

Back in Ohio, the arrival last August of Caitlin Lynch, 26, was music to the ears of Judson residents. The retirement community launched an experiment this year, giving two Cleveland Institute of Music students apartments on an independent living floor in exchange for one recital a month in the independent, assisted living and long-term care units.

The Juilliard School-trained viola player, who is getting a graduate degree from the Cleveland Institute, couldn't be happier. Last month, Lynch played background music at Judson Christmas parties and entertained at their holiday carol sing-along. She and the other student, a pianist, often perform together in their new home.

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