A New Way of Learning: The Intergenerational Campus
By Sue Chadwick
DateNovember 30, 2016
Historically, the college campus has been a space for innovation where young generations can bring new thoughts and ideas to fruition. However, the Intergenerational Campus breaks from this tradition and sees a new era, where young minds meet old, creating a new kind of learning experience.
Not only are these campuses designed to increase educational attainment for all involved, but also to create a space to merge two generations in a residential capacity; intended to create mutually beneficial outcomes such as cultural exchange, enhanced social skills, increased social connectedness and improved mental and emotional health and wellbeing.
In their three year ‘New Cities Initiative’, The University of Kansas suggested that the ideal intergenerational campus should comprise a multitude of qualities. These included: common ground through both planned and spontaneous interaction, affordable and age appropriate housing, and opportunities for lifelong learning. In addition, the concept also incorporates elements of Healthy New Communities, proposing that campuses include meeting spaces, walkable open areas, bicycle paths as well as natural settings for interaction.
Considering that fewer seniors are vacating cities for greener pastures, intergenerational campuses could be an important platform to spark new and valued relationships, which add to a stimulating and fulfilling retirement. In addition to the sharing of opinions, ideas and cultural backgrounds, the campuses allow for the development of these new relationships whilst both communities can remain geographically close to friends and family.
One can’t help but notice that this type of campus design could address a variety of sociological and economic issues that we face in modern day cities. This prominently includes the need for sustainable housing and the growing divide between our expanding older generation and the young, new talent that lives within our universities, as well as loneliness more broadly. For example: one of the economic concerns of recent years is the growing challenge for young people to obtain affordable housing. Seniors are staying in residence longer, meaning that renting a property in the city centre and surrounding suburbs has become increasing expensive. Sociologically speaking, over the last few decades the family landscape has also changed dramatically, which has had an impact on the relationship between seniors and their younger predecessors. The nuclear family, has dispersed and children are less likely to grow up with grandparents present, or in a more diversified family setting (e.g. single parent household). Intergenerational learning may not be a silver bullet for all of society’s ills, but by combining educational, social, housing and economic strategies, the benefits of this solution appear to be much greater than the sum of their parts.