Grandad rules!

I couldn’t help but share this gorgeous photo of my dad teaching Alice how to drink a cuppa! She’s doing well for a two year old although she is still on the babychino!

Sorry not blogged for a while but really busy with the family and a new job!

However, it’s been great hearing from people across the country interested in intergenerational housing – momentum is picking up! I’d also like to promote the United for All Ages and Housing LIN web sites as great resources for learning more about intergenerational housing and all things intergenerational! These two organisations are doing great work to promote the benefits and share learning!

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My report is finally finished!

I’m pleased to say that my report examining what we can learn in the U.K. from intergenerational housing schemes in the USA is now available on the Winston Churchill Trust web site.

I want to say a big thank you to all the wonderful housing providers that helped me organise my visits and to all the lovely residents who took time to speak with me.

I hope this report will show that intergenerational housing can work and bring a wide range of benefits to individuals, communities and the state.

Let me know if it’s inspired you to think intergenerational!

Inspiring others and being inspired!

Yesterday I attend the national Generations Working Together conference in Glasgow. It was great to finally meet people I’ve been chatting to via the telephone or e-mail in person. It was also great to hear about all the amazing intergenerational work that is happening across the UK, ranging from setting up nurseries in care homes to running cocktail parties for care home residents!

Delivering a workshop on my research trip was also fantastic. Thank you to everyone who chose my workshop – I enjoyed sharing the learning with you. I’m glad it inspired others to start thinking about how this could be made a reality in the UK context and am sure the developments I visited will be happy to know they’ve inspired others too.

I’m hoping my report will be available from April on the WCMT web site.

 

Generations Working Together Conference

Well I know I’ve been quiet for a while but I’m excited to say that I’ll be delivering a workshop on my experiences in the USA at the Generations Working Together national conference in Glasgow on Wednesday 6th March. You can find details of the event here:

Event: GWT National Conference 2018  
Date: Wednesday 7th March 2018, 10:00am – 4:00pm
Venue: University of Strathclyde, The   Technology & Innovation Centre, 99 George Street, Glasgow, G1   1RD                 
More Information: http://generationsworkingtogether.org/events-training/national-conference-2018-safer-fairer-more-successful-communities-07-03-2018

 

What have I been doing?

Well it’s just over a month since I got back from my amazing trip to the USA! Time has flown by. In typical fashion, my children decided to store up illnesses to wait for mummy to get back so unfortunately I’ve been in a constant cycle of sickness for the last month which has hampered my ability to work on my research somewhat.

I just wanted to say a huge thank you to everyone who supported me on my trip and to all those who were kind enough to meet with me. I met so many wonderful people and visited some amazing places (still to write a blog about New York’s grandfamily housing) that it will be hard to condense all my learning into one report.

I’m planning on writing up my research by the end of February but, after speaking to Lorraine another Fellow who visited the USA to look at co-located nurseries within care homes, it’s clear it will be hard! There is so much good stuff we can learn from the USA. I’ll update my blog to let you know when the report is ready!

I’ve been really pleased that my trip has inspired others – I’ve been chatting to two people who’ve applied for Fellowships in the housing category which is great, speaking to people who’ve been inspired  to look at setting up some intergenerational housing in the UK and had great interest from supportive organisations (especially Stephen Burke thank you) who’ve put me in touch with key contacts and offered to help disseminate my findings.

 

 

Bridges Together and Hebrew Senior Living

Today I spent time with the lovely Julie and Andrea from Bridges Together, an organisation in Sudbury Mass that plans, develops and delivers intergenerational programs and training. Their IG programs provide strategic opportunities for any skipped generations to come together and engage in activities that support the whole person development of all participants including he older adults, children and staff. 

They are clear thatintergenerational is…

  • A mindset that says regardless of what we are doing, we can bring generations together 
  • A culture and way of life
  • Supported by policies and procedures (yes I like this being a policy geek!)
  • A professional field with best practices, research, journal, thought leaders and associations 

They went through how to approach and deliver intergenerational activities, the do’s and don’ts, how to make it successful and how to build partnerships.  I learnt so much that I’m eager to get going when I get back! I found out why it’s important is to have a leadership team with representatives from the different age groups, to plan carefully and to have training in how to deliver a successful program. It’s not just a case of getting different age groups together, it’s important to plan properly to ensure that meaningful engagement takes place.

Andrea also kindly set up a meeting at a senior housing provider who has successfully run an entire intergenerational program across multiple sites for a number of years. They run so many programs and activities it is hard to list them all!

However, the key things I’ve learned today are…

  • There are opportunities to build intergenerational activities into almost anything we do – not just in terms of residents. But also for our staff members. Some great ideas are…an IG dance class learning dances from different eras; an I G garden; IG lunch or ice cream socials; mentoring and buddies.
  • There are so many benefits for participants and lasting relationships can be built.
  • Start small and go slow – build up gradually and evaluate activities as you go along.
  • If possible, monitor outcomes.
  • Ensure staff facilitating are trained. Without key staff it won’t work.
  • Never say no! If an opportunity presents itself try to make it work!

Well I can’t believe I’m near the end of my research trip ! It’s gone so quickly and I’ve met so many wonderful people. I’m having a few days holiday in New York before visiting a grandfamily housing development in the Bronx.

The Treehouse, Easthampton

Today I’ve spent a lovely day at the Treehouse community in Easthampton Massachusetts – thank you to all the staff and community members (seniors and kids) who spoke with me. They were even so kind as to get me a birthday cake (and it was my favourite…carrot cake!).

Opened in 2006, Treehouse at Easthampton Meadow is an intergenerational community for families that are adopting children from the public foster care system and for seniors who want an engaged life style.  This innovative community, one of the first in the nation to be built from the ground up, is receiving national attention for its goal to “stop the bounce,” to end the epidemic of foster children being moved from home to home and instead create permanent homes for these vulnerable children. Delivering on founder Judy Cockerton’s desire to connect seniors with families, the neighborhood consists of 60 one, three, four and five bedroom apartment homes designed in a village-like setting with a central focus on the development’s community centre for gatherings as well as educational and recreational programming.

The Treehouse at Easthampton Meadow is a unique partnership of three organizations: Beacon Communities, The Treehouse Foundation, and Berkshire Children and Families.  The Berkshire Center for Families and Children has worked closely with Treehouse and the Department of Social Services to provide foster/adoptive care placement and on-site social services to the community.

Financing partners for Treehouse include the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development, the MassHousing Finance Agency, the Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation, and Bank of America, with syndication provided by Centerline Capital Group.

Located at the base of Mt. Tom in Easthampton, MA, Treehouse at Easthampton Meadow, is part of a larger 46 acre, master planned community that includes a 33 unit homeownership community and 17 acres of open space that are permanently deed restricted and conveyed to the City.

The Treehouse community offers rental homes, including 48 affordable senior cottages, for individuals over 55 who are interested in a mission driven, caring  community. There are twelve rental homes with 3-5 bedrooms, for families providing permanency for children through adoption, foster, guardianship or kinship care.

Over 100 people, ranging in age from 3-90, live on Treehouse Circle. The six staff members working on-site collaborate to bring people together so they can get to know one another and form trusting relationships, the foundation for long-term engagement. As Treehouse community members gather in the Community Centre, Community Garden, on the back patio, for picnics and barbeques, to spend time painting, cooking, hiking, riding bikes and participating in activities, connections are formed.

Treehouse is a diverse community and has attracted seniors and families, from near and far – indeed I met two ‘ladies in waiting’ who are volunteering there and getting to know the community while they wait for a rental opportunity to come up. The seniors were a great bunch and I don’t think I have laughed so much in my whole time in the USA – I could have spoken to them all afternoon!

Many of the seniors had moved there because they didn’t feel ‘old’ – yes they have retired but they felt they had so much to offer, they wanted to stay part of an active community rather than sitting in an ‘old folks home’. Many of them volunteer regularly with the kids, with whom they have organically formed close bonds, whether that’s through babysitting, school runs or piano/dance lessons. The best thing about living there is the community and the support they all give each other. Although the seniors  volunteer with the kids, they get a lot out of it and they love to see the kids running around and all the noise they make.

One lady told me about a young girl who comes to visit regularly. The senior had recently gone on holiday and when she returned the girl came up and gave her a big hug because she’d missed her so much. She said ‘I love you’ and made the senior promise not to go away again without letting her know. Another told me about a young man who lives there who comes over for cooking lessons – apparently she is a very good cook!

I was also really impressed with the demonstrable outcomes for the young people who live there – since it opened all but one child has graduated high school compared to just 58% of foster children nationally. The kids I spoke to were all lovely and readily got on with their homework at the after school club.

Not only do the seniors benefit from interacting with the kids and vice versa, the staff I spoke to all love working there and feel they have benefitted too. They get great job satisfaction working with community members of all ages whereas in other jobs, they may have just only provided services to one age group.

The community is also helping to break down stereotypes among the wider community. Because the community is racially diverse, this has had a positive knock on effect in the nearby town. Even the receptionist at my hotel 20 minutes away had heard of this unique community!

Judy told me that they are in the process of setting up two similar communities in California and nearby Framingham. Hopefully they will be able to get the funding in place and local support so they can replicate this wonderful community.

Ecovillage

For the last two days I’ve been visiting a cohousing community called Ecovillage in Ithaca, New York State. It’s the biggest cohousing community in the world and it’s been around for over 20 years. The Village is based on 175 acres of land with just 15 acres being used for densely clustered housing. There are also 3 farms, ponds, play areas, a community workshop, a sauna and swimming ponds.

The Village is made up of 3 different neighbourhoods which have been built separately over a period of 20 years. There’s FROG (First residents group) which was the first neighbourhood built back in 1997; the second neighbourhood is called SONG and that was finished in 2006 and more recently the last neighbourhood TREE was completed in 2015. Although each neighbourhood looks different and has been built using different materials and technologies, they are all based on green principles and on a culture of sharing. Technologies such as super insulation and solar, mean that some of the homes are producing more energy than they use and seven have achieved Passivhaus standard. The community also car pools as well as sharing electronics, toys, books and furniture.

Each neighbourhood has a common house where they share meals weekly, there’s a children’s play area (both inside and outside), offices, guest rooms, dining areas and community kitchens. I enjoyed a lovely community meal at SONG where I was lucky enough to be treated to chocolate cake and ice cream to celebrate birthdays taking place in October (I’m 40 tomorrow!) There was also a ping pong table and they have tournaments. They were also the process of setting up a new bar like area and were asking residents to give their input on the new lighting. At the meeting, one of the TREE residents Bobbi, also talked about some free Reiki classes she was giving to the community and some pet behavioural classes that people could sign up to for free.

One of the main things I noticed here is that it is very much resident led. There are so many committees to which the residents contribute to in order to keep their community going. There are work groups for things like cooking and outdoors. Residents are expected to volunteer 2-4 hours per week based on their skills. No one moaned about this and Frederique, one of the SONG residents told me how it’s not really a chore as he thinks about how many hours everyone together contributes. His wife Helen mows the grass as it fits around her work schedule and I saw Jim a spritely 74 year old hoovering the common house.

Residents were heavily involved from the beginning in all aspects of the planning and design of their neighbourhoods. Liz, one of the cofounders, has written a very informative book on how the idea came about, how they got it off the ground, issues with funding the build and all the problems that took place. However, what is clear is that all residents have a say. Although some expressed frustration at how long the consensus based approach can take to reach a decision, they were generally supportive of being able to have their say in what goes on.

Another thing that struck me straightaway  was what a great place this is for kids  – my kids would definitely love it here. There was so much open space and the parents I spoke with told me how safe it is for kids because there are no cars in the neighbourhoods plus there is always someone around. This made them feel like they didn’t have to plan activities so much, the kids were freer to explore and be creative and they had their friends next door so things can happen more spontaneously. I did notice however, that Ecovillage was very very quiet – although parents didn’t mention this as an issue, I was told that there had been some complaints about noise but I guess you get that in any neighbourhood.

In terms of the intergenerational aspect, there were plenty of opportunities for people of different ages to mix together and to learn from each other. A 20 year old resident told me how she loves learning from the older residents who know so much about all sorts of things such as gardening, sewing etc – she just has to ask and someone will help her or teach her. This was echoed by one of the parents and also some of the older residents – clearly at Ecovillage you are never too old to learn a new skill! Plus, because the centre of the neighbourhoods at green, open space where kids can run around, its easy for both age groups to come into contact with each other. There’s always something going on here whether its ‘Guys Baking Pies’, the Winter Spiral, Thanksgiving celebrations, swimming, skating, apple pressing etc – and all ages mix and get involved.

Wallace one the TREE residents has published an article on living at Ecovillage and this is what he had to say: ‘We in TREE encounter younger people continually. Our neighbors on both sides are couples with six of the 16 young children in TREE; several other households include teenagers full- or part-time. We regularly join younger adults, and sometimes children, in social events, meetings, and work-team projects. We particularly enjoy watching younger folks’ outdoor activities through our large kitchen windows (which, as in all the EVI houses, are deliberately placed to look out on neighborhood pathways): parents and children hurrying to and from school and jobs or appointments downtown; kids rough-housing or having tea-parties on the grassy swale out front, and building snow-houses in winter.’

 

Road Trip!

So today I took a lovely 6 hour drive from Cleveland to Ithaca, New York State. Boy, I’ve never seen so much roadkill! The scenery was beautiful though, huge hills/mountains (not sure) covered in tall red, green and yellow trees. At the highest point I was 2200 feet up! There were signs telling me to watch out for bears and deer crossing ( only saw dead ones unfortunately). I also managed to stop at a beautiful place with a huge lake and got chatting to an old fisherman who told me he history of nearby Jamestown and how it was settled by the Swedes and Italians in the 1800s. He was trying to get me to move there and I could see why, it was gorgeous.

I then finally arrived at Ecovillage Ithaca a cohousing community with around 240 residents and 3 communities. It’s high up in the hills with no light pollution so the sky is crystal clear and you can see the stars nice and bright! I did try to take a photo of the sky like an idiot but it wouldn’t come out on my  iPad! It’s based on 175 acres and most of it remains green. It’s high up so you can see all around – I’m going to take some photos of the views tomorrow! 

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