A mini city build around care for the elderly


We are Lotfi and Selvi, a couple of engaged people with an eclectic cultural background. We opened an elderly home twenty years ago, but stopped a couple of years ago because the field wasn’t interesting anymore. Now  we are active on all kind of different levels inside healthcare organizations but we still have a dream to realise a new way of looking at elderly care.

We come from different backgrounds from Africa, mixed cultures, and saw how they treat their elderly within the community. We lost that touch with our elderly here in the west, we use the homes a place to bring the elderly, but we we forget they are viable resources for the development of our society. Their knowledge, their experience is a vital organe for society. So why not build more inclusivly we tought?

That is where we started thinking about a mini city where the elderly home would be in the center, but where families, schools, shops could intertwine with the daily practice of the elderly. Having elderly people in your surroundings is great for the development of a local neighborhood so why don’t we finance more project with that in mind?

For me it is partially because the politics isn’t ready in Belgium to start this discussion. People started to have the idea it is ok to bring your elderly to a home, so why brutally change it? But for me it is something politics need to invest now, to experiment and learn about these new methods so we can prepare the future, where the elderly will even be an even bigger number of people if we follow the population piramde of Western countries.

I would love to find out if other projects around the world are looking at the same problem, and using more design solutions to reconnect the elderly and their homes with the other generations.

Anyone has experienced co-living with elderly?

Hi @LotfiAndSelvi, you say the elderly “are viable resources for the development of our society” - what do you have in mind? Twenty years of working for them must be pretty righ in insights.

I only know of very sporadic activities that are intergenerational - and most happen around holidays: for example youth taking presents to care homes and spending time with their new grannies for a day or so. It seems to put a smile on people’s faces, but of course its not substantial, as what you are talking about.

Curious if new (co)living models such as @Simonedb’s has good news about what can be achieved if generations help each other remain active under the same roof. Are you seeing that Simone or is everyone in your houses still fairly young?

This is happening in the Netherlands. via the Internets

So the lovely @CommonFutures has just shared this in response to my tweet asking for help: Intergenerational Housing in Deventer.

It’s really something: a project started in 2013 for a new elderly retirement home where students pushed back by unaffordable student housing can also live without paying rent, and in exchange volunteering 30 hrs of social activities per month.

Intergenerational Care Projects

There are a number of interesting intergenerational care projects internationally - including: Present Perfect - USA & Fureai Kippu - Japan.

The Deventer initiative is terrific. So, too, is the Hogeweyk community which involves young people living alongside people with dementia.

I understand there’s an initiative in the US where older people are running their own care homes - if anyone comes across a URL leading to further information, please do share it.

Reminds me of this

Hey @LotfiAndSelvi, this reminds me of another Belgian project called DUO for a JOB. Their tagline ‘integenerational coaching’ sums it up well: older people passing on their skills to young people with a migrant background. Is that something you envision as well? It might be insightful to talk to them as well.

In my home town we have a related story going on. The old movie theater  in the city centre, a beautiful building with a rich history and emotional meaning for a lot of people, was bought by project developers after bankruptcy. They plan to install service flats where elderly that are still okay can live in co-housing with people who need care, like other elderly or young people with a disability. Yet the whole project has a very commercial smell hanging around it. Do you meet similar stories, is there an impact on the sector?

Intergenerational care is necessary

@LotfiAndSelvi  @Noemi Intergenerational communities are indeed necessary to increase social connectedness and cultivate building better living conditions for the older generation. Whether its students living with the care homes and volunteering to have the elderly care for the young, it’s a circle.

This may also be of interest

Connecting generations is not just a “nice idea” I think it’s necessary. For the younger generation who may have not had the presence of grandparents or the presence of older generations creating an influence in their life this is an added value for them, it connects the past, present and future in one conversation. Whether you’re at either end of life- there are similarities.

There are tremendous benefits of these connections. There is a lot of talk to help older people, but perhaps they can help the young. It’s the experiences of life in a multigenerational, interdependent, abstract community that, more than anything else, teaches us how to be human. The older generation often is faced with isolation- which in turn creates the backdrop for cognitive decline. We all know that. If we can improve the standing of older adults in society, and nurture what they can bring through to the table, then we can achieve a better community with a better quality of life for all ages. With their practical knowledge, some may use the term wisdom, gained from experience, and because they carry with them a whole world lost to younger generation, they may well be our greatest social capital. There are some projects out there, but its a topic craving attention.

In the US there is an initiative with this care model called Generations of Hope.

Have you experienced it personally?

Thank you @Maria! I see a great divide starting at the public level - not just elderly as being category in need, but also usual special considerations for them seeing pushback by other people, younger people. For example taking public transportation at rush hours. Imagine crowded places, everyone wants to get somewhere and people getting territorial - the first to get on the bus, to punch their ticket, to find a spot to sit down etc, but younger people frustrated that not everyone needs to get somewhere. The discourse I hear in my hometown “but why, older, health sensitive, and complaining as they usually do, why do they take the bus on the worst hour? Can’t they wait for a 9 or 10 AM?”  You may think this is a very provincial fight, but so telling to me!

I believe this is a divide which in essence is heavily induced by the very policy discourse - in my country it’s always been the fight between the leftist pensioneers favouring party versus the more liberal ones, and elections reflect just that.

I’ve yet to see in my immediate surroundings good projects catering to this gap…

A similar point was made by @Alex_Levene here, talking about the ideological conflict we may end up having with our very own grandparents whose worldviews are frustratingly (and perhaps understandably) last century.