Who Says Old Dogs Can't Learn New Tricks?

Fostering intergenerational relationships between citizens should never be as difficult as nuclear fission. Encouraging conversation between all citizens is as easy as simple mathematics; take groups of individuals able to give and receive emotional and community support, create a safe living environment, and voila! A livable community. The Bridge Meadows complex in Portland, Oregon has done just that. This 11.3 million dollar development contains nine homes and twenty seven apartments which occupies the site of the former John Ball Elementary School. The site was purchased and donated by the City of Portland. These nine homes are reserved for families that have adopted three or more foster children. The apartments are set-aside for low-income seniors who receive a small stipend toward the cost of rent in exchange for service hours within the community.

Program director Renee Moseley believes these service hours significantly impact the connections established within the complex. Seniors derive a sense of joy and purpose from the interactions with their younger neighbors. While this community service program greatly enhances the lives of these seniors, the emotional impact on the lives of the foster children goes far beyond any quantitative value. Moseley stresses the importance of a sense of permanency and stability for the foster children, many of whom have been uprooted numerous times in their short lives.

The project was modeled after an interactive neighborhood in rural Chicago called Generations of Hope/ Hope Meadows. This project has been highly successful, boasting a 90% adoption rate over 14 years. The children not only find loving adoptive homes, but an entire community dedicated to nurturing and educating them. “The community fosters something they thought abandoned them a long time ago: a sense of hope,” Mosely stated.

Not every senior “baby-sits” foster children. Other residents offer classes, volunteer at the on-site library, or work on other residential enhancement projects.

Eventually, Bridge Meadows hopes to expand to a complex of 80 or more, which will be entirely self-sustaining with rents, donations and fundraisers. However, extensive financial support will be necessary for this dream to come to fruition. Community leaders from the city of Portland have begun the catch on to the beneficial impacts of this the symbiotic relationships blossoming between the seniors and foster children. Grants and donations from the greater Portland Metropolitan community will be necessary to sustain and expand the development.

Currently there are only three intergenerational housing projects in the United States. The Directors of Bridge Meadows hopes to lead as a shining example of the significant impacts of this type of community and foster inspiration for other projects nationwide. Jo Anne Long, Bridge Meadows Board Chair stated, “We stand ready to make a difference in the lives of at-risk youth as we wrap our arms around a collective philosophy of care and compassion.” 

For more information on the Bridge Meadows project visit www.bridgemeadows.org