The Desire for Intergenerational Community
The desire for eldership and spiritually-rooted, intergenerational community is widely shared among younger people engaged in social change work.
Meanwhile, Millennials face unprecedented economic precarity and a shortage of affordable space for living, gathering, and organizing. Many have alternative visions for shared life in community, different from the American Dream pursued by prior generations.
As a testament to this, there are a growing number of examples of alternative coliving communities, both organized for Millennials and/or intergenerationally:
- Some are explicitly religious, such as: Moishe House, Simple Way, Hazon, Benincasa NYC, or the Lucy Stone & Margaret Mosley Cooperatives.
- Some are interfaith and see themselves as part of a “new monastic” movement, such as the Center for the Working Poor.
- Some are secular, such as: Stone Soup, Life Center Association, Commonspace, Open Door.
Either way, all of these communities are upending conventional ideas of what community might look like for the Millennial generation, and speak to a deep, widely-felt longing for belonging in sacred communities of service.
Yet, many of these same Millennials are also yearning for forms of intentional community that weave together spiritual life across generations, not just with peers—perhaps for the same reasons that many women became sisters in the first place.
Sister Spaces and Intergenerational, Multi-faith Lay Communities?
Some sister spaces that have been sold have been converted into intergenerational co-living communities (not just eldercare facilities), which come with a range of built-in benefits to all generations involved, such as:
- Aria Intergenerational Cohousing (Denver, CO)
- Pennypack Crossing (Philadelphia, PA)
- Richmond Hill (Richmond, VA)
But is it necessary to wait until an order moves on to explore intergenerational co-living? Some congregations have created short-term residency programs for associates or other volunteers.
Might we create new forms of covenantal community? See our call for a partner residency site!
Two Case Studies
Case Study: Bluestone Farm, Bewster New York
From Faithful, a report on creative models for congregational communities in transition:
“The [Community of the Holy Spirit order of Episcopal nuns] at Bluestone Farm has actually grown in the last four years, thanks to an unlikely partnership with the millennial-led collective, Prime Produce... [which] has now hosted monthly group salon retreats at the farm since January 2014, which are mostly attended by millennials.”
“We didn’t know how much we were missing until we were in this wonderful relationship with the sisters here” ~ Jerone Hsu
Case Study: Claymont Society for Continuous Education
The Claymont Society in rural West Virginia was founded in 1974 as a spiritual, educational, and agricultural center. But with an aging community, it was looking to its future and how to adapt in this transition.
Since Spring, 2018, one member of our research team has taken up residence at the community to explore the future of the site beyond its founders.
Further Reading and Inspiration
The Treehouse Foundation Community in Easthampton, MA “is a caring, multi-generational neighborhood” that includes “twelve family homes with three, four or five bedrooms and 48 one-bedroom cottages designed for seniors.” Read: A community built around older adults caring for adoptive families (NPR)
Tackling Ageism: Ashton Applewhite (TED)