Urban activist Jane Jacobs said this about the inhabitants of a city: “The first fundamental of successful city life: People must take a modicum of responsibility for each other even if they have no ties to each other. This is a lesson no one learns by being told. It is learned from the experience of having other people without ties of kinship or close friendship or formal responsibility to you take a modicum of responsibility for you.”
We have a sense that Jacobs would have been a strong proponent of looking at communities through an “intergenerational lens,” and we also think that perhaps she would have approved of Lasell Village, a senior housing community that shares space with Lasell College in Newton, right outside of Boston.
According to Marketing Director Marcia Fredlich, Lasell Village was created “along the same philosophy of the college,” as the community has an emphasis on “active, intellectually enriched learning.” Because of its affiliation with the college, there is a 450 hour/year learning requirement; every trimester, 20-25 classes are geared specifically to Village residents. Some are peer-taught, some are taught by Lasell professors, and because of this learning requirement, the residence has a bit of a “self-selecting population,” according to Fredlich.
What are the benefits of Lasell’s arrangement? First, says Fredlich, professors can make assignments for students to interview someone from a particular era – students then have a built-in resource right on their campus. For the residents, being “in school” doesn’t mean just auditing a course; rather, they are considered “participating students.”
But also, says Fredlich, “Often, young people aren’t interacting with older people outside of their family relationships and their families’ values. So the students learn from the residents. Let’s say you’ve got a grandmother of a student who doesn’t like piercings or something else seen as ‘strange’ to an older person – this environment gives both the students and the older people a chance to interact with each other in a non-judgmental way.”
Lasell College is also home to the RoseMary B. Fuss Center for Research on Aging and Intergenerational Studies, providing an ideal place to study the types of real-life interactions that occur right on campus, naturally.
You can learn more about Lasell Village here.