On a table near the door of the historic Hopkins home sat two stacks of rental applications: one for “older adult,” the other for “younger adult.”
The home, called Stepping Stones, is being reserved for the first time for one senior citizen and two college students or recent graduates. It’s part of a pilot program run by the senior housing nonprofit Augustana Care, and the hope is that the three roommates will live together in the recently renovated home, sharing meals and going grocery shopping, all while learning from someone at the other end of the age spectrum.
“Our society seems to be missing opportunities to allow both generations to benefit from each other,” said Mary Jo Thorne, Augustana Care’s regional housing director. “We need less technology use and more porch-sitting and storytelling. We’ve lost that concept.”
Though a few, similar intergenerational living programs have popped up in Europe in recent years, the model is new to the U.S., Thorne said.
The idea came out of a conversation last year when Augustana Care CEO Tim Tucker came to Thorne, seeking a creative solution for the newly acquired house adjacent to Augustana Care’s Chapel View campus.
Since 2009, Augustana has welcomed students and young adults into one of its Minneapolis apartment complexes, putting 20-somethings next door to 100-year-old residents. The model offered affordable housing to students who got to hear stories of the “good old days” while changing a light bulb or opening jars for their senior neighbors.
“We wanted to take it a step further and put them under one roof,” said Chapel View Housing Director Kelly Morgan. The Stepping Stones model “is new, creative and mutually beneficial. It’s only one house for now, but we hope to expand it in the metro area and watch it grow from there.”
The house has three levels with upstairs bedrooms, so Thorne said the senior renter will need to be mobile on stairs. For the younger applicants, priority will given to those going into fields relating to older adults, such as geriatrics, nursing or social work.
As Stepping Stones renters, students will be responsible for helping their older roommate with housecleaning, laundry and shopping. The three must get together for at least two shared meals per week.
Student rent runs between $625 and $750 a month, although weekly volunteering at Augustana Care facilities can qualify students for a discount of up to $400. Rent for the older adult is $1,150, including all utilities and two meals a day from Chapel View.
With the exception of the two student bedrooms, the house is fully furnished. The cupboards and drawers are stuffed with everything from pot holders to sundae cups. A framed butterfly painting hangs in the living room; a thick copy of “Anne of Green Gables” sits on a small table on the three-season porch.
A photo album with the history of the 116-year-old home lies open on the dining room table, complete with faded pictures of many of the families that have called the place home.
“Dad would love living in an older house with its own history,” Kathleen Fahnhorst said during a recent tour of the house. Her father is 87 and still fiercely independent, she said.
Her mother moved into the Chapel View facility last week, and Fahnhorst thinks Stepping Stones would be a good option for her dad, allowing him to keep his independence while still being close to his wife.
“He doesn’t think of himself as an old person,” Fahnhorst said, laughing. “He says he’s not ready to hang out with old people.”
If he decides to move into Stepping Stones, he already has plans to have his roommates help him with his technology problems, she said.
“He is worried about getting annoying roommates, but I’m sure he’ll probably annoy them just as much,” she said.