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Intergenerational Housing: A Millennial’s Perspective

July 27th, 2017 by

My grandson has a summer “job” working for our architecture and interior design firm and has never really thought about housing issues, let alone housing for the elderly. I was curious about how a seventeen year old would see the issue of intergenerational housing and so asked him to tell me. Here is what he had to say.

            I’m Jonathan Dulin and I am going to be a high school senior this year. This summer I am working as an intern for Marks Thomas. It has been a great experience finding out about the housing projects they do here and I was curious about the shift to intergenerational housing that I hear the architects talking about. So, I did some research and talked with the housing experts here at Marks Thomas.

 As the generation of the “baby-boomers” get older, there will be, and is, a change in the housing composition. The baby-boomers, those born between 1949 and 1964, are the generation of the seniors who are known to be the go-getters and work to better the community. Seniors are shifting away from the traditional retirement community/senior-living and seniors have obvious options that they can consider: downsize to a smaller home, move to a retirement community, or live with their children. According to an article in the Washington Post, 80% of seniors would prefer to stay in their home, but not many can afford the costs of care and maintenance.

Intergenerational housing has become increasingly popular for seniors over the past 20 years. For example, the Florida Times Union said, “The trend in 55-plus communities is away from the golf courses, the former clubhouses, and cookie-cutter homes.” Due to the shift of housing, intergenerational housing is the future of affordable housing for families, adults, children, seniors, and housing in general for people.

            Intergenerational housing can range from single-family homes in close-knit communities to roommates sharing a multi-room apartment in a building. Intergenerational housing can also be university-based. For example, New York University (NYU) offers students a discounted price on room and board if they stay in a room with seniors. The Chicago Tribune wrote about a college student’s experience, “‘you give a lot, but you also get a lot back, we have a lot more in common than you think’ said Bieg, a 19-year-old art student who lives in a room with seniors.”    

Intergenerational housing can also be seen in cooperative housing. Rather than owning actual real estate, you own a part of a corporation that owns the building. Cooperative housing usually includes an apartment building or a community of separate buildings. For example, artists housing was opened for providing affordable housing for artists in a supportive environment. There are a mix of all ages in the cooperative housing community, which also makes it intergenerational. This becomes beneficial because the older artists who have more experience can share their knowledge of arts, finances while the younger residents share their technology expertise.

            Shared housing of different generations is a complete possibility for the future of affordable housing. Intergenerational housing is more affordable for students and recent grads since it provides a way to share costs and it is less expensive for seniors due to the younger individual helping to care for the older residents.

Seniors have the same desires in a community that millennials value, like access to parks, transportation, education, fitness, restaurants, common areas, and most importantly a meaningful sense of community. Seniors still want to be a part of the community in any way that they are able. It is very likely for a senior to experience loneliness and millennials do a great job of suppressing the feelings of loneliness the senior may have. In intergenerational housing, every individual plays a role, which makes it a community. Also, the sense of community for seniors in intergenerational housing can eliminate loneliness.

            I believe intergenerational housing is a wonderful shift in the future of housing. It benefits every age of people in a variety of different ways. Intergenerational housing provides unique opportunities for people who need a cheaper housing option, and especially seniors who need a sense of community in their lives. A young resident in an intergenerational house said, “It’s rewarding beyond just the affordability of it. You can’t quite put a price on the experience of being able to volunteer to help other people while you live in the building.”

-Jonathan Dulin


Founded in 1967, Marks Thomas has an established background and a solid reputation for planning and crafting well designed environments for a diverse clientele and we are pleased to provide exceptional client service. Today, we are recognized as leaders in our profession and continue to set new standards for innovation, quality, and sustainability. For 50 years, Marks Thomas has proudly called Baltimore “home.” Over this time, our network of clients, colleagues, and friends has grown.