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Housing for Intentional Living

Communities are being created with the specific intent to meet the needs of specific types of households — such as grandparents raising grandchildren, foster families, and military veterans returned from the frontlines

A view of a footbridge and townhomes in the Bridge Meadows housing community

Photo courtesy Bridge Meadows

At a time when the definition of family is expanding, "intentional communities" (such as Bridge Meadows in Beaverton, Oregon) build supportive, caring relationships.

More than a third of people age 50 and over are single. Many are childless and live alone. 

Parents, especially single parents of young and teenage children, are often overwhelmed and need help. Kids coming out of the foster care system need support and stability.

The "intentional communities" housing model, developed on the basis of residents’ shared interests or values, is an attempt to turn problems like those into solutions.

An older woman and teenage girl are neighbors in the Bridge Meadow Housing community

Photo courtesy Bridge Meadows

Older residents at Bridge Meadows (including Susan, with her neighbor Reba) contribute at least 400 volunteer hours a year to the community by helping with childcare, tutoring, meal prep and more.

Bridge Meadows, for instance, is a nonprofit that creates “intentional intergenerational-living communities that bring youth who have experienced foster care, their forever families, and elders together.” Its goal is to “build place permanence and purpose” for all involved.

The organization’s first location, in Portland, Oregon’s Portsmouth neighborhood, has been in operation since 2011. The second development, in Beaverton, Oregon, opened in 2017 with nine family town houses and 41 apartments for people age 55 or over. Those apartments are divided between two buildings on either side of the town houses to encourage older residents to interact with other age groups. Every home looks out onto a central courtyard. There are ample indoor gathering spaces, and residents get together for a weekly group meal dubbed the “Happiness Hour.” Bridge Meadows also has a full-time, on-site social worker.

Beaverton Mayor Denny Doyle is a champion of Bridge Meadows. “Bringing more affordable housing, particularly for seniors, is a top priority for the city,” he says. “This model of serving families in the process of adopting foster children in an inter- generational complex is all the better.”

At a stage of life when loneliness and social isolation are pervasive, the development’s older residents find both a ready-made community and affordable housing.

Beaverton resident Therese Madden Rose, who is in her 60s, was immediately sold. She moved from Virginia to Oregon to live at Bridge Meadows the day it opened.

Other intentional intergenerational communities include:

A military veteran poses with his young son, daughter and puppy in the Bastion housing community

Photo courtesy Bastion

”Bastion has been a huge blessing for me and my family,” says retired Navy Master-at-Arms Malik Scott (with his children and puppy) about the 38-household intergenerational intentional community. “It gave us hope at the time when hope was in question.”

Hope Meadows — Rantoul, Illinois

The inspiration for Bridge Meadows, Hope Meadows is a small, five-block neighborhood in a small town. It was established in the mid-1990s for, the develop- ment explains, “three groups often at risk of being marginalized in American society — kids caught in the child welfare system, families that adopt children with special behavioral and emotional needs, and retirees who are seeking continued purpose in their daily lives.”

Bastion — New Orleans, Louisiana

A 5.5-acre intentional community for veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, Bastion describes itself as a "community of resilience" where “returning warriors and families” can develop “meaningful relationships that endure for a lifetime” and “sustain a thriving recovery from the wounds and casualties of war.” 

Las Abuelitas — Tucson, Arizona

Championed and designed by grandparents, Las Abuelitas Family Housing is a small, affordable “kinship care” community that addresses the multigenerational needs of its residents. (Read "Housing for Grandparenting" to learn more.)

This article is adapted from the "Build Housing for All Ages" chapter of the AARP publication Where We Live: Communities for All Ages — 100+ Inspiring Examples from America’s Community Leaders (2018 edition). Download or order your free copy.

Article by Sally Abrahms | Page published April 2019

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