Don’t Mind the Gap in Intergenerational Housing

But everyone there was, in a word, old. And all the residents appeared to be living in exile, far removed from whatever their lives had once been.

By contrast, intergenerational housing — development that goes out of its way to mix older and younger people — is increasingly regarded as healthier, physically and psychologically. While we’ve heard a lot lately about huge, leisure-oriented communities, like the Villages in Florida, inhabited exclusively by those 55 and older, the largest proportion of American seniors lives in the most intergenerational places: cities like New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.

Why is housing designed to help older people stay in the mix becoming a priority? Two words: baby boomers. Currently, there are 73 million of us, all born between 1946 and 1964. According to the Census Bureau, about 10,000 members of this group turn 65 every day, “and by 2030, all boomers will be at least age 65.” As with every other aspect of society, boomers seem destined to transform the business of aging. At least, I hope we are. And we’ll soon get help from Gen X, since the leading edge of that cohort is now turning 55.

“You are not the only one,” AJ Viola, an entrepreneur working on a new housing approach for seniors, assured me when I told him about my memories of visiting my mother-in-law. “Every single person we talked to … I feel like the verbiage is, ‘I would rather die.’ How many times have folks said that to us?”

A couple of years ago, Mr. Viola, 37, who was chief operating officer of D-Rev, a Silicon Valley company that made affordable medical devices, partnered with Zachary Hollander, 38, formerly of Google, to devise a different model of senior living. This was to be informed by technology’s spirit of endless reinvention and the observation that their parents were not anything like their grandparents or great-grandparents.

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