Intergenerational community planned in Warren County

Warren County Community Services commits $2 million to project.

The people and organizations behind a more than $26 million development in Warren County hope to create a “lifelong village,” or intergenerational community they say will be the first of its kind in the region.

Hopkins Commons is envisioned as a development featuring a restaurant, a banquet center, 160 apartments for senior citizens and a senior center. The three-building complex will connect to a neighboring subdivision of single-family homes, an assisted living center and downtown Maineville.

The result? An intergenerational community where senior residents would mix with the younger families living in the Regency Park subdivision, the neighboring Otterbein campus and other people visiting the restaurant and banquet center.

“This could be a very powerful, collaborative endeavor, something relatively unusual,” said Scott Markland, vice president for regional centers for Sinclair Community College.

Sinclair students in the culinary and other hospitality management programs would help operate the restaurant, run by an area restaurant company through a profit-sharing agreement with Warren County Community Services. Hopkins Commons’ senior residents would interact with the students and other people visiting the restaurant and banquet center.

This is the power of an intergenerational community, according to experts.

“They are capitalizing on all the assets of the community,” said Sheri Steinig, special projects director for Generations United, an advocacy and research organization. “There are skills young and old have that can be used to help each other.”

Studies from the National Institute on Aging show there is a strong correlation between social interaction and health and well-being among older adults.

“Positive indicators of social well-being may be associated with lower levels of interleukin-6 in otherwise healthy people. Interleukin-6 is an inflammatory factor implicated in age-related disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular disease, and some forms of cancer,” the NIA reports.

Growing worldwide movement

Warren County Community Services, a non-profit agency that provides a range of social services to the county’s elderly residents, has committed $2 million toward development of the restaurant, banquet and senior center to be included in Hopkins Commons.

“It’s amazing. It works,” said Gene Rose, CEO of WCCS, about intergenerational communities.

In addition to benefiting from living in an intergenerational community, residents are able to purchase services needed, rather than paying for a full slate of services provided in traditional retirement communities, conserving the money they are relying on to fund their retirement years, according to the project’s developers.

“It slows the spend down,” said Bruce Rippe, developer of the nine-acre project to be located on Ohio 48. “The idea here is to age in place.”

And Hopkins Commons residents wouldn’t have to go far if their need for assisted living increases, according to an official with the Otterbein Skilled Nursing & Rehabilitation Neighborhood located near the planned development.

“Otterbein loves the idea,” Gary Horning, Otterbein’s vice president for marketing and communications, told this news outlet in an email. “Think about it, an independent living senior community and senior services center (and restaurant), nearly adjacent.”

Late last year, Ohio State University opened an intergenerational center, as momentum continues toward "age friendly communities," according to Suzanne Kunkel, a professor of gerontology and executive director of the Scripps Gerontology Center at Miami University.

OSU’s center provides early childhood education through seniors services, such as adult day care, under one roof.

Research has shown that health is improved and community strengthened by the joining of generations, Kunkel said.

“If you make a community more welcoming, more accessible, if you make it more possible for older people to get where they need to be, that actually helps everyone,” she said. “It’s really thinking back to what communities used to look like.”

The benefits of intergenerational programs are also promoted at the Scripps Gerontology Center at Miami University. For example, its Opening Minds through Art program connects children and senior citizens over art projects.

People at both ends of the age spectrum also meet through the Greene County Educational Service Center’s preschool program, established 15 years ago at the Friends Care Community in Yellow Springs.

The preschoolers go to class in the same building that houses a senior care facility. The children often walk through the senior care area to the playground, interacting with residents along the way.

“They are meeting people who represent the community,” sad Terry Graves-Strieter, superintendent of the center.

Periodically the children sing songs or perform plays for the residents of the senior care facility.

“They are very much a part of the community,” said Karl Zalar, director of the Friends Care Community. “It would be terribly missed if we didn’t have them.”

Final hurdles to be cleared

WCCS is currently seeking proposals from restaurant operators interested in a profit sharing agreement for the restaurant and banquet center at Hopkins Commons.

The profit sharing — and $500,000 in state funding being sought for the project — is expected to go toward repayment of the $2 million committed by the agency. It is also counted on to allow the agency to expand services at the new senior center in the development.

The development will be built behind the Hamilton Twp. Government Center and the local post office, north of the Ohio 48 and Fosters-Maineville Road intersection in the village of Maineville.

More long term, WCCS is contemplating moving its offices, now on Otterbein’s main retirement campus in Turtlecreek Twp., to another building to be built north of Hopkins Commons by Rippe. Staffers would add to the developments overall intergenerational mix, WCCS officials said.

“This is just a project that our community and our region can be proud of. I see it as being a destination location,” Rose, of WCCS, said.

Thirty of the 160 apartments will be rent subsidized, based on income, qualifying the project for $6 million to $7 million in state tax credits through the Ohio Housing Finance Agency, according to Rippe.

Local officials are awaiting the zoning permit, settling details such as the street addresses of the buildings, before issuing the building permit.

“We’re probably going to start construction sometime in April or May,” Rippe said.

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