Senior Communities Going ‘Age-Friendly’: Housing developers rediscovering the benefits of reconnecting intergenerational activities



A rendering of the 34-acre, $70 million Riverport Landings campus of LDG Development’s Family Scholar House project in the Cane Run area near Louisville.

Louisville this fall became the fourth Kentucky city to receive AARP’s “age-friendly” classification, another step for Kentucky toward what is called “intergenerational equity.” Louisville Metro is the 120th national AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities member, joining Berea, Bowling Green and Lexington.

The intergenerational equity concept features providing multigenerational housing, working environments and open public spaces that allow for deeper connections and exchanges between senior populations, young families and under-represented, diverse audiences.

Developers are finding value in the concept, too, as they invest in residential construction projects, including Friendship Health & Rehab and its new Generation Connect Foundation in Pewee Valley, Ky. That $100 million senior community living campus now under construction will include youth soccer fields, public walking trails to a bridge community and hands-on participation in key activities for youth and seniors in sports, art and music. The development is only one example of what’s happening in the region.

Intergenerational public housing

Intergenerational equity also is central to the concept of another Louisville-area sustainable development, according to the principals in the Marian Group and LDG Development LCC. The joint venture team is building a $70 million, 34-acre multigenerational, affordable housing complex called Riverport Landings with 412 units in the greater Cane Run area, where nearly 55 percent of residents are African-American and 22 percent of families include children under 18.

Construction was slated to begin in late fall on the all-rental community, which will take public housing credits. Senior housing will be 108 units that will be for households with incomes no higher than 60 percent of area median income. Low-income home units will be further restricted to incomes no higher than 50 percent of AMI. On the family housing side, occupancy of all 240 units will be restricted to households with incomes no higher than 60 percent AMI.

A Family Scholar House community onsite with 64 units will serve single-parent families and youth aging out of foster care who are pursuing a degree from an accredited college or university. All 64 units will receive Section 8 rental assistance Housing Choice Vouchers provided by the Louisville Metro Housing Authority.

Founded in 1997, the Marian Group is a full-service real estate development, construction, advisory and investment firm. LDG Development of Louisville is a joint venture partner on the project, and the two operate under Riverport Development Inc.

“This is an intergenerational community model and follows two other similar developments found in Austin (Texas) where we are involved,” said Project Manager Michael B. Gross of LDG. “The model looks to have all members of a family live close, and that includes non-traditional members who are not blood relatives. To keep a family going requires people who can participate as parents, grandparents and nurture youth.

“We have done site visits to other programs, like the Generations of Hope initiative in Illinois, to research the model. They are actually tracking outcomes for seniors from these types of communities,” Gross said.

The Villages of Ben White and The Pointe at Ben White in Austin, Texas, are LDG projects that by design bring seniors and children together in communities serving the needs of families and aging populations in a concept similar to Riverport Landings.

“There is an intergenerational movement in Kentucky. We are looking for shared performance in well-being on campus environments where single parents can interact with older adults for extended family ties, for example,” said Joe D’Ambrosio, director of health innovation and sustainability at the University of Louisville’s Institute for Sustainable Health & Optimal Aging.

“With the Industrial Revolution came segregating older adults into their own communities, but this model is outdated,” D’Ambrosio said. “People are living longer and can share knowledge and wisdom to younger generations. Shared space and responsibilities for the neighborhood make for educational conversations about what we can do in making a cultural shift for optimal aging and connection possible.”

The UofL Institute plans to push the AARP “age-friendly” Louisville initiatives forward.

Riverport Landings is financed by Redstone Tax Exempt Funds LLC, PNC Bank, the Kentucky Housing Corp. and Develop Louisville, which is a division of Metro Louisville government. The city will manage a 2.5-acre public park in the midst of multifamily dwellings, senior apartments, a pool and a Family Scholar House apartment complex model for aspiring single parents and their children. There will be 10 multifamily buildings with 240 garden style, one- to three-bedroom apartments in addition to senior apartments.

Family Scholar House’s state model

Family Scholar House, based in Louisville but working statewide, has a mission to end the cycle of poverty and transform communities by empowering families and youth to succeed in education and achieve life-long self-sufficiency. It is contributing private fundraising dollars from its own resources for the Riverport Landings project. This is Family Scholar House’s fifth project in Louisville; others are in Pikeville and Covington.

Riverport Landings will offer a commercial area where doctors’ offices and other service providers can be on campus, and will include an education building for hosting various services and an art studio.

Since the 1970s, U.S. senior populations have been encouraged to “seek out their own” in communities that cater specifically to them, but these retirement villages often did not provide the kind of support found in a melting pot environment where multiple generations interact in daily living, said Dr. Anna Faul, executive director of the University of Louisville’s Institute for Sustainable Health and Optimal Aging.

The Institute will be the host organization for Louisville’s AARP Age-Friendly City initiative and will oversee the development and implementation of an action and evaluation plan. This may include alterations to simple public systems like street crossing timers that currently allow about 12 seconds. A person over 75 who is still mobile often needs more time, Faul said.

Kentucky is part of a national evolution in thinking.

“Equity involves trying to understand and give people what they need to enjoy full, healthy lives. Equality, in contrast, aims to ensure that everyone gets the same things in order to enjoy full, healthy lives,” according to a 2014 article on human well-being by researchers J.K. Summers and L.M. Smith printed in Ambio, an interdisciplinary journal that explores sustainability.

In 2011, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Research and Development program, Sustainable and Healthy Communities, coined the term TRIO (Total Resources Impact Outcome) to represent approaches that fully incorporate all three pillars of community sustainability – environmental, economic and social. This holistic approach to sustainability is embodied in a Human Well-Being Index model, including societal well-being.

WHO and AARP push Kentucky cities forward

AARP’s Network of Age-Friendly Cities and Communities is affiliated with the World Health Organization’s Global Network of Age-Friendly Cities and Communities. It helps participating communities become great places for people of all ages by adopting features such as safe, walkable streets; better housing and transportation options; access to key services; and opportunities for residents to participate in civic and community activities.

Other communities – including Austin, Texas, home to LDG’s similar project, and Tulsa, Okla., where You 177 has been established – are already thinking out of the box. You 177 stands for: 1 World, 7 Generations, 7 Billion People and You. Tulsa public school kindergarten classes have been set up in a nursing home where seniors help children read. Seniors reported their health improved as a result, and parents said their children were better prepared for school.

U of L wants a “living lab”

The Institute at U of L will soon announce its plans for its own nonprofit, civic-minded intergenerational development and “living lab” concept. The idea is to train the next healthcare workforce using U of L’s School of Medicine and “flourish where you age,” said D’Ambrosio.  “Living together, participating in decisions together and celebrating community. The connection of generations is vital to urban areas and taking care of children, in particular disadvantaged and under-represented youth,” he said.

Influence of grandparents continues

“I remember how much I enjoyed being with my grandparents,” recalls Robert Young, CEO of Friendship Health & Rehab. He founded Generation Connect Foundation to bring girls age 9 to 12 to the senior campus to stimulate art, sports and other connections for wellness in a continuum of care model.

“In 2008, there began a push in the medical literature to bringing generations together for optimal aging and intergenerational approaches,” Young said. “It is calming to be with younger generations as you age. And what people can give back is critical to relationships and community growth.”

His model calls for a doubling effect each year in expanded participation. The groundbreaking for assisted living and memory care facilities to extend the current nursing home complex will be in fall 2017. Generation Connect participation from the community will have doubled by then, he said.

“Communities are looking for models where non-traditional views of family can succeed and open the door for well-being,” Young said.

Friendship Health & Rehab has unveiled its plans to expand its 52-acre campus in Pewee Valley, which has housed a nursing home facility for more than 40 years. The owners, led by Young, will soon expand into other senior living facilities and begin the five- to eight-year anticipated buildout of the campus, with a focus on intergenerational activities. The campus includes a natural wooded area, as well as a soccer field and open green spaces, and the owners will look to preserve these elements.  A community walking trail, several sports fields, and a rehab pool are planned as part of the development.

Upon completion, the campus will accommodate up to 550 senior adults. This will bring employment to 300 from a current staff of 120, and ultimately will be the showcase senior healthcare campus in Oldham County. Phase I, a private pay model, will include an assisted living and memory care center, with up to 64 beds in the building. ■

Dawn Marie Yankeelov is a correspondent for The Lane Report. She can be reached at