Some new pint-sized members recently joined the community at the TowerLight on Wooddale Senior Living complex.
The $24 million St. Louis Park senior residential community, which opened last fall, has added a $1 million child care center, where kids and seniors mix for an “intergenerational experience.”
TowerLight Childcare offers year-round care for up to 66 children ages six weeks to 5 years. The 65,000-square-foot facility serves as a home base for kids and senior residents to engage in arts projects, singing, reading and one-on-one visits.
Programs bridging generations date back to the early 1960s when the Foster Grandparent Program was created as part of President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty, according to Generations United, a Washington, D.C., based advocacy group. That program aims to link low-income people over the age of 60 with children with special or exceptional needs.
Over the years, the concept has embraced many forms — and in the Twin Cities, there are a handful of operations like TowerLight linking child care with senior living facilities, said Erin Hilligan, campus director at Ebenezer Ridges Care Center in Burnsville, which has a similar program.
Research conducted by Generations United shows that intergenerational contact enhances socialization, stimulates learning, increases emotional support and health for seniors, while children’s academic performance and social skills improve.
“As children and seniors share memories, play games and create together, an unmistakable bond forms that transcends generations,” said Annie Westall, housing manager of Ebenezer Management Services. “Children learn to think beyond their small worlds. Seniors feel a new sense of purpose.” Ebenezer, part of Fairview Health Services, manages the day-care component, and is also a partner with Greco Real Estate Development on the project.
Hilligan noted that many children don’t have a daily or frequent connection to their own grandparents, who may live out of town.
TowerLight on Wooddale features 32 memory-care units, six suites with service-intensive care, and 75 independent-living units.
The complex, located at 36th Street and Wooddale Avenue, is one of several senior housing developments to open in the Twin Cities in the past year. According to a recent Cushman & Wakefield/NorthMarq Compass report, developers like Greco continue to hunt for sites for senior housing.
“The pace of senior housing development could accelerate as the single-family housing market continues improving, and those people who are considering senior housing options are more able to sell their existing homes,” the report states.