Multi-Generational Living Arrangements

Meals and more: Care center links with campus to the benefit of people of all ages.
Older woman talking to young couple

Residents of the Lasell Village retirement center in Newton, Massachusetts, are as likely to spend time at nearby Lasell College as they are in their own apartments.

The Village, licensed as an educational community, requires residents to log 450 hours of continuing education a year. That means lots of time taking classes, attending performances, and mingling with students and faculty.

The Village is “part and parcel of the college,” says Marcia Fredlich, Director of Marketing at Lasell Village, which has 215 residents in independent- and supported-living units, as well as skilled nursing. Fredlich points out that the sidewalks from village to college go both ways. Lasell students participate in educational activities that take place at the retirement center. They have internships at the Village, and work-study students form the wait staff at the Village’s dining room.

Lasell is one of a growing number of retirement centers near or on college campuses. The idea, around for at least 25 years, is gaining traction, thanks to the surge of culture change—putting people first, and institutional needs second—swirling around later-age living.

“It really is the opportunity to connect with an older generation, experience their wisdom and life stories,” says Katrinka Smith Sloan, President and CEO of LeadingAge, a Washington, D.C.-based organization of nonprofits dedicated to improving quality of life in old age.

Feeding across generations

Mealtime is a natural bridge between people of all ages. At Lasell, generations mingle in the dining room, as residents are customers and students are the staff.

“The residents enjoy having students wait on them,” Fredlich says. “They might know some of them from classes, and it adds a vibrancy to have young people there.” Some students and residents develop grandparent/child-type relationships; those connections can help students in their professional lives, Fredlich says.

Because many of the Village’s residents are healthy, active people, the restaurant “is run pretty much like any gourmet restaurant,” Fredlich says. Filet mignon, roast chicken, and salmon appear on the menu every night. Each dinner menu also offers two healthful choices, vegan and vegetarian choices, and two chef’s specials. Desserts, soups, and appetizers change daily.

Self-operated Lasell Village dining services also caters 10 to 12 events and meetings each year for the college, and hosts six to eight other events a year.

Rules of engagement

In addition to appropriate foodservice, continuing-care centers must make good on their promise to expose residents to college life. That includes auditing classes, using sports facilities, attending sporting and performing-arts events, and interacting with students and faculty.

“The more the college or university is welcoming to seniors, the more likely you’ll have a successful project,” Badler says.

At Holy Cross Village in Notre Dame, Indiana, residents can partake of activities at three schools: Holy Cross College, St. Mary’s, and the University of Notre Dame.

Brothers from Holy Cross College have lived at the Village since 1842. It’s expanded over the years, and eight years ago became a continuing-care retirement center. It now has 38 villas and 116 apartments for independent living; 46 assisted-living units, plus 48 skilled-nursing beds. Residents are 82 years old on average, and more than 40 percent have post-graduate degrees, says Kelley Mason, Marketing Director for Holy Cross Village.

The Village shares a campus with Holy Cross College and is within walking distance of St. Mary’s College and the University of Notre Dame. Residents volunteer on campus, use the library, take classes, and attend sporting events on all three campuses. They must pay for classes and sporting events, Mason says.

The Village has a full-service restaurant as well as a bistro that offers lunch. Students sometimes have lunch at the bistro “for a change of scenery,” Mason says.

Mixing It Up

Some Cleveland Institute of Music students live with Judson-Manor residents. In exchange for room and board, students provide concerts and cultural programs for Judson’s three retirement facilities.

Here’s how Judson Manor makes meals pleasing for both generations:

Restaurant-style dining. The menu offers two daily specials, a dozen “always available” entrées, and a seasonal menu.

Variety. Menus include three to five vegan or vegetarian dishes, plus “always-available” selection with several basic meat-and-potatoes entrées.

Varied service styles. At the casual Wade Park Grill residents order lunch at the counter and are served tableside. Dining-room service is more formal for dinner and special events.

Customization. Chefs can omit certain ingredients per request. The manor is also investigating gluten-free options.

Satisfying Multigenerational Cravings

The following are among the favorite foods of the generations living together in these arrangements:

The silent generation (born 1945 and before):

  • Roast turkey
  • Meatloaf 
  • Grilled cheese
  • Tomato soup
  • Egg-salad sandwiches
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Green beans, carrots, and peas

Baby boomers (born 1946-1965):

  • Fish and seafood
  • Chinese food
  • Sandwiches—besides burgers
  • Mexican food
  • Barbecue food
  • Salad with ranch or Caesar dressing
  • Beef dishes

Millennials (born 1977-1992):

  • Chinese food
  • Mexican food
  • Barbecue
  • Chicken dishes
  • Breakfast foods
  • Cajun flavors
  • Miso

Generation Z (born 1993 and after):

  • Pizza
  • Burgers
  • Chinese food
  • Mexican food
  • Pasta


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