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Posts Tagged ‘senior living’

Photo: 2Life Communities.

Back in June, I was listening to the radio in the car and heard a local interview with poet Billy Collins. Collins was in the area for a 2Life Communities fundraiser. In searching for more information on 2Life Communities, I found this 2021 story from GBH radio. Turns out, there actually exists, through a lottery system, an affordable and very diverse option for retirement in Greater Boston.

Marilyn Schairer reported, “Some senior adults living in and around Boston face a major life dilemma nowadays, especially when they retire and are on a fixed income: they have to choose between paying for heat, for food or for rent.

“That’s what 2Life Communities is working to change. The nonprofit is on a mission to help senior adults live in affordable housing in the Greater Boston area, with over 1,300 units and hundreds more in planning and construction stages, as demographic shifts leave more older Americans burdened by housing costs.

“Amy Schectman, president and CEO of 2Life Communities, said 2Life does more than just provide housing for middle- and low-income senior adults.

“ ‘We’re dedicated to the proposition that every older adult should have the opportunity to live a full life of connection and purpose in a dynamic, supportive environment,’ she said.

The organization’s mission brings together a community of people from all backgrounds and cultures. …

“A major demographic shift is underway in the United States as the baby-boomer generation ages. By 2030, one in five Americans will be 65 years old or over, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

“But Schectman said only a third of older adults who qualify for subsidized housing actually receive it nationwide. The remainder, as found by Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, are ‘housing cost burdened,’ Schectman said, ‘meaning they’re spending an inadequate [amount on] money on food and medicine.’

“Currently, 2Life Communities has 1,340 affordable apartments on six different campuses in the Greater Boston area, including Newton and Framingham, and they’re looking to build another campus in Lynn. … Tenants at 2Life are selected through a lottery system, and the waitlist is long. …

“Tenant Darryl Smith won an apartment in the lottery three years ago, and he is thrilled.

“ ‘Oh man, I’m jumping for joy,’ he said. Smith, who is in his 70s. …

“2Life was formed in 1965, and back then it was called Jewish Community Housing for the Elderly. Schectman said the new name is meant to convey a sense of joyous aging, and it comes from a traditional Jewish or Hebrew toast: ‘L’Chaim,’ which means ‘to life.’

“One of the things tenants said they like about the living situation is the diversity. Resident speak a plethora of languages, and there are lots of people from the Boston area, of course, but many are immigrants, representing countries such as China, Ukraine and Belarus. …

“ ‘The end of the year is a big time of giving,’ she said. ‘And let me be clear, we can’t do what we do without philanthropy. We are 100% dependent because we believe you can’t chintz out on services and programs.’

“The median annual household income among residents is $12,078, according to Schectman. But even with federal subsidies and tax credits, she said partnerships with businesses like Dellbrook Construction are needed. Dellbrook’s CEO Michael Fish said he understands the need for organizations like 2Life Communities.

“ ‘The fact that they’re expanding and growing tremendously is not surprising whatsoever, and it’s incredibly necessary given the state we are in and the need for affordable housing for seniors,’ Fish said.

“And tenants like Darryl Smith feel a lot of gratitude for having a newfound home.

“ ‘I’ve got friends now that you can go right to,’ he said, noting the sense of community. ‘If you have any kind of problem, they’ll walk with you, and everybody’s smiling.’ ” More at GBH, here.

As my husband and I scout retirement communities, we realize that although we are fortunate enough to be able to pay the costs, we are going to lose out on contact with people of diverse backgrounds. Diversity of nationality, religion, and language is often tied these days to economic diversity. I will just have to keep volunteering with English as a Second Language classes. For me, making friends in those classes is truly enriching.

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Photo: Mi Casa.
At Genesis , an intergenerational community in Washington, DC, older adults provide care and social support to individuals and families facing vulnerabilities, who in turn, promote the well-being of the elders as they age.

Because we don’t know the future, we need to make a plan. Catch-22: we can’t make a plan because we don’t know the future.

If we will always be able to handle the usual things that grown-ups handle, we may want to stay in our homes. For couples, if only one of us needs extra care, we may want to be where two lifestyles are possible. If we want to take interesting walks, we need to be where there are interesting walks. If we can’t walk or operate a wheelchair, a walkable neighborhood may not be as important as, say, being around good conversationalists or having easy access to books.

And what about being able to interact with people of other generations?

As Matt Fuchs reported at the Washington Post in September, “Research has shown that older and younger adults need one another: Mixed-age interactions make seniors feel more purposeful, and young people benefit from their elders’ guidance and problem-solving skills. ‘They fit together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle,’ said Marc Freedman, chief executive of encore.org, a nonprofit group dedicated to uniting the generations.

“But in practice, such closeness can be hard to come by. Many young adults flock to cities, while older people often isolate within the walls of 55-and-over communities. Parts of the country are as segregated by age as race, fewer people are having children, and people live by themselves in record numbers, including 27 percent of adults over 60. …

“One solution is establishing residential communities that are designed to nurture these bonds.

“ ‘There’s a trend toward intergenerational living,’ said Elin Zurbrigg, deputy director of Mi Casa, a D.C. nonprofit that provides mixed-age housing through its Genesis program, in collaboration with city officials. Demand may be rising because of the pandemic, which has exposed loneliness as a serious health issue and has prompted many Americans to move for fresh starts. …

“[Here are some ways] mixed-age communities benefit their residents.

“[First] they cultivate purpose. A shared purpose with neighbors is what Estelle Winicki, a 78-year-old retiree, always envisioned for herself, but finding that wasn’t easy. In Boulder, Colo., she rarely crossed paths with neighbors. … Her therapist suggested Bridge Meadows, which operates two complexes of townhouses in Oregon that bring together seniors, former foster-care children and their adoptive parents. Residents are encouraged to spend time with their age opposites.

“Winicki, who lives at Bridge Meadows in Portland, doesn’t need persuasion. She starts many of her days helping her neighbors’ children get ready for school. ‘It gives me such pleasure to see these kids grow with a strong foundation,’ she said. ‘They know they can rely on me, and I like helping.’

“[Second] they provide mental health support. ‘The first thing you see among all the generations [at Bridge Meadows] is the sense of “I belong” and “I matter,” ’ said Derenda Schubert, Bridge Meadows’ founder and a clinical psychologist. Such an environment allows mixed-age communities such as Bridge Meadows to provide safety nets that protect residents’ mental health. …

“[Third] they offer professional advantages. In other communities, the generational glue is professional. PacArts, a mixed-age building in the San Pedro area of Los Angeles, provides affordable housing to artists. Luis Sanchez, a 53-year-old painter, said he can count on his neighbors whether he’s having a rough patch with health — he’s had two kidney transplants — or his work. An older neighbor has hired him repeatedly to assist with large painting projects. ‘I’ve learned a tremendous amount,’ Sanchez said. ‘She knows techniques and materials I would’ve never used.’

“Eva Kochikyan is a musicologist and teacher residing at Ace 121, a similar building in Los Angeles County. … She grew up in Armenia, where residents socialized regardless of age, but after relocating to Los Angeles, she barely saw her neighbors. In moving to Ace 121, the 41-year-old re-created the experience of a big extended family. …

“Kochikyan recalled her 4-year-old wandering into the building’s communal art studio, sitting right next to an accomplished painter in his 70s and picking up a brush. ‘No lecturing, just working together,’ she said. ‘These connections happen naturally.’

“[Fourth] they may keep older people active. Seniors may get more movement when inspired by the vigor of youth. … Kochikyan thought of a neighbor as an ‘old grandma’ after watching her frown during a solo workout. Since then, though, the baby boomer has befriended a group of children who enjoy kicking her yoga ball with her. During these sessions, her intensity picks up and her face lights up, Kochikyan said, ‘like she drops 20 years off her age.’ ”

Read about other potential benefits and check the most recent research at the Post, here.

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