Senior living communities are now using programs to connect residents and reduce loneliness. These programs enhance the well-being of youth and seniors, and introduce them to a broader community and is intended to help bridge the intergenerational gap. These types of programs can help to help to solve societal issues, introduce the youth to newer career paths, and help to fight ageism.
East Ridge Residence, which is an independent living retirement community located inside of Chattanooga, Tennessee teamed up with The Victory Lap and other programs in July to provide a brand new home for a teen who was a part of the Independent Living Program which is a part of Partnership for Families, Children, and Adults. John, who recently turned 18, had been in foster care for 4 years before he aged out and joined the Independent Living Program.
The Victory Lap is an organization out of Nashville, Tennessee, which brings generations together by providing housing to older children in foster care within retirement communities. Partnership for Families, Children, and Adults happen to be a child welfare agency in the local area that can provide group homes and it is also a resource center. It also provides other social services that are not related to foster care like the Extended Foster Care program, also called EFC.
When John moved in, the East Ridge residents had gathered together to welcome him with pom-poms, special shirts and he was allowed to do a cannonball into the pool as one of his favorite activities is to swim.
John had recently graduated high school with honors from during the spring, and he works within East Ridge in the dining room where he has his very own apartment. He began at Chattanooga State Community College in the fall and he hopes to become a technical analyst for the FBI eventually.
Partnership for Families, Children, and Adults and East Ridge are committed to the mode from The Victory Lap and hope to welcome more youth, hopefully soon eventually.
According to Matt Fox, the CEO and founder of Veritas Senior Living, who partnered with Atlas Senior Living to get East Ridge, stated “We are proud to be one of the first to partner up with The Victory Lap, and we are extremely excited to have the first participant to live with us. It’s a great opportunity to build and grow cross-generational relationships. What appeals to me most is the potential relationship John will have with our residents. It is a win-win situation for everyone involved. We also have the opportunity to help you grow professionally while you work with us while studying.”
One of the main issues for teens who are like John, who are aging out of the foster system, is homelessness, lack of connection to caring adults, and unemployment according to the founder of The Victory Lap, Rosemary Ramsey. The Victory Lap helps to find these teens’ new support systems at retirement communities.
“Our program model goes beyond the average intergenerational play. It is a win-win situation. The revenue can range between $700 to $1200 per month or per unit based on the stipend from the state for these vacant units and having staff on-site, which helps to remove transportation-related call outs. The Victory Lap is not just an opportunity; it is a business opportunity.”, stated Ramsey.
Ramsey went on to state that around 22,000 youth will age out of foster care each year within the United States. Many states have Extended Foster Care for those who ask for it and can meet certain vocational and educational criteria. The states will work with child welfare agencies, which will then pay to provide life skills training, supervision, food allowances, and housing to the kids in their care until they turn 21, no longer meet the requirements, or leave the program.
“The problem is that the collective houses operated by these agencies are small, most of them are a dozen or fewer children,” Ramsey said. “They must provide these children with what the retirement community does for their residents, but can you imagine only doing this for 8, 10, or 12 residents? State subsidies are not enough to fund the model, so agencies rely on donors to make up the difference, which limits the number of children they can attend. ”
According to Ramsey, The Victory Lap takes the scale economies and high fixed rates of retirement communities to be able to afford some meals, utilities, apartments, and 24/7 staff at a fraction of the normal cost for a group home. Additionally, the kids can have 10 hours of paid work each week, and there is a lot of love from the neighbors.
Merrill Gardens at Monterey in California had their residents partner up with 5th-grade students from a local school to share their life stories.
The senior living community has a very strong relationship with Stevenson School, and the residents here have enjoyed the monthly visits from the students in different grades each year. The project that has been taken on by 5th graders has provided an inspiring connection and it has caused intergenerational friendships.
9 students were partnered with a few residents and given the task to document their life stories. The students would visit the community to go through a series of interviews while learning about the residents and getting information such as what made them happy, their worst jobs, favorite jobs, the most difficult life experience, military service, education, childhood memories, and ending this with advice from the residents to the students.
During their final visit, the community held a celebration where each student was able to share what they learned about their new friend.
Ruby Perez, Active Living Program Director for Merrill Gardens at Monterey, stated that it was one of the sweetest things, and most of the people there were in tears. There were no words to describe how happy the residents were to have a young child share their life experiences in a very creative way. It was and still is an amazing project.
The students even took the time to purchase the residents gives based on what they had shared. One resident received flowers, another one resident who enjoys sitting next to the fireplaces received a cozy blanket fireplace, and a World War II veteran got a coffee mug. The residents and students shared contact information and planned to stay in touch by writing letters.
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