In Portland, Ore., there’s an idea so innovative that it has managed to bring together two sets of people with different problems — and solve them for both.
Welcome to the Bridge Meadows housing development, which helps elders and kids by providing a supportive environment for families that adopt foster kids alongside 27 units of affordable housing for seniors who agree to pitch in for 10 hours a week to help out with the kids. It’s a solution to a problem you don’t hear about often on the news: According to the PBS News Hour, 15 percent of seniors in America live below the poverty line, which often makes them struggle to find affordable housing. Meanwhile, families who adopt foster children face their own difficulties, as they are pressed for time, money and support.
Jackie Lynn, 60, is in the process of adopting her niece’s children because both of their drug-addicted parents are in jail. She works full time and felt she wasn’t able to give the kids the attention they needed until they moved to Bridge Meadows. Her family is partnered with neighbors Jim and Joy Corcoran, the “elders” who volunteer to spend time with the kids. “They are the reason that we thrive,” Lynn told Cat Wise of the PBS NewsHour. “Jim takes the boys every Sunday morning for about three hours. And they come home excited, with all these wonderful stories. You see children running up to them and giving them hugs. It’s just incredible to watch it.”
Meanwhile, the Corcorans experienced financial trouble after Jim lost his construction job, but now they live comfortably at Bridge Meadows with a $500 monthly rent payment. Joy Corcoran told Wise, “It was really difficult to find any decent housing that we could afford in any regard. And so when we had the opportunity to move here, it was just a godsend. It was like a huge relief.”
Bridge Meadows is funded by rents and donations from corporations and the community, and it provides a myriad of ways for kids and elders to interact every week. Elders lead story times, teach music lessons, tutor kids in school subjects, give them lifts to school and more. Derenda Schubert, the executive director of Bridge Meadows, said that there have been a few families who moved in and found the togetherness a bit too much, but for most of them it’s a perfect fit, and several seniors reported that their health improved through so much interaction. “Connections across the generations is critical, absolutely critical for aging well,” Jim Corcoran told Wise.
Plenty of people agree with Jim — which is why another intergenerational housing development like Bridge Meadows is currently under construction in Portland. But there’s good news for those who don’t live in Oregon, too: The staff of Bridge Meadows is consulting with people across the country who want to start their own such housing projects.