Intergenerational Housing Project to start next fall


The Intergenerational Housing Project will provide Mercer students with housing and accommodations at Carlyle Place, a Macon retirement community, in exchange for fostering relationships with residents to combat loneliness and mental illness. Photo provided by Carlyle Place Director of Marketing and Sales Kimberly McGinnis

After two years of planning, Mercer students are set to move into Carlyle Place to begin an intergenerational housing project.

Carlyle Place is a “life plan community formerly known as a continuing care retirement community,” according to Chief Administrative Officer Thomas Rockenbach.

They house various geriatric residents from those living independently to those requiring supported care.

The Intergenerational Housing Project began as a Service Scholars initiative by seniors Carson Outler and Anna Stallings. The duo thought of several other ideas, ranging from getting Mercer students more involved in programs such as Meals on Wheels to a lawn care service. However, the students eventually decided that they needed a more sustainable option.

Thus, the two settled on an intergenerational housing model after studying a model they found from the Netherlands.  

“You want something that’s going to make a long-lasting impact because [the residents] can feel so isolated and lonely,” Outler said.

Outler said providing activities and friendship for the residents is about more than keeping them company.

“The purpose of it really, looking at our research and our plan, is that seniors who experience loneliness easily fall into depression,” Outler said. “Forming those meaningful relationships between young adults and the elderly can help decrease those negative health consequences. There was even research about how that loneliness and depression could be correlated to Alzheimer’s.”

The students are expected to move in during Mercer move-in day in the fall semester. After which, the students will be expected to establish 8-10 hours of programming per week for the residents. The programming pertains to activities established by the students in collaboration with Carlyle Place residence life department.

The activities can range from those of the students’ choosing or the students may choose to bring in other Mercer student organizations for programming opportunities.

“We’re hoping for an opportunity for our residents to benefit from the various backgrounds, interests and skill sets of the university students,” Rockenbach said.

The students selected for this program will live at Carlyle Place during the academic year in exchange for free housing and three meals a day. Outler and Stallings said they are already in talks with Carlyle Place for securing a second year.

She said she hopes the students involved will be dedicated to forming positive relationships with residents.

“It’s just having someone who’s … not just there to check if they ate their lunch or if they went to an activity,” she said. “Instead, to have someone just to get to talk to, just to get to know them, learning their story and be able to communicate that through this program, like through a diary or something like that, and not having those stories lost. Especially not through the hands of mental illness.”