Magazine article University Business

Across Generational Lines: Making an Intergenerational Living Complex Work

Magazine article University Business

Across Generational Lines: Making an Intergenerational Living Complex Work

Article excerpt

THOSE OF US AT RESIDENTIAL liberal arts institutions are used to attracting the traditional, "18-year-old flesh out of high school" student. While it's immensely beneficial for students to embrace the residential experience and bond with peers of similar age, mentorship and wisdom from more experienced members of society lead to an enhanced perspective and a better-rounded student body.

Intergenerational interactions can help supplement a liberal arts education. What could be more valuable than an undergraduate history major hearing firsthand about the World War II experiences of a former Navy pilot? How about a senior citizen learning the ropes of online social networking from a college student? We've created that scenario at Ohio Wesleyan University with Austin Manor, the nation's only intergenerational living complex on a college campus.

While the concept is relatively rare, intergenerational living is creating a buzz in higher ed. Here's some advice for campus officials who may want to offer that option.

LOOK TO INTERNAL RESOURCES AND EXISTING FACILITIES

Engage alumni in creating the intergenerational concept. They have an existing bank of memories surrounding their college days and may consider moving back during retirement. Think about renovating a dorm or other building that already evokes nostalgia from alumni as a natural way to bond current and former students.

Austin Hall had experienced decades of wear and tear by the late 1980s when the concept of intergenerational living came to the forefront. Rather than demolish this 1920s landmark residence hall, our leaders decided to renovate it, creating a new atmosphere to connect current students and alumni.

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Alumni and others, including faculty emeriti and family members of former students and faculty, helped develop the concept. The university looked first to these groups to fill the new residence, called Austin Manor. Its first two residents, former faculty members who arrived at Austin in 1988, remain today. The demographics have since expanded to include about 80 residents, split almost equally into students, retirees, and working professionals--some with no prior connection to Ohio Wesleyan. …

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