What type of neighbors do you prefer – people just like you, or a mix of ages, stages and life experiences? If you like diversity, you’re not alone – age-inclusive communities, aka multigenerational communities, are found in many locations and varieties throughout the U.S. and Canada. But here’s the challenge: since multigenerational communities attract residents of all ages – and multigenerational lifestyle communities offer desirable amenities and programs – how do their associations choose the right mix of activities and programming to meet homeowners’ needs and interests and enhance their lifestyles, both now and in the years to come?
For insights, we asked Michael Mendillo, Regional President at FirstService Residential, which provides community management services for multigenerational lifestyle communities throughout the U.S. and Canada. Here, he outlines some of the challenges and characteristics of six key family lifecycle groups, as well as examples of events and other programs that are successfully being implemented by multigenerational community association managers, Lifestyle Directors or specialized committees to meet their residents’ needs. An added bonus is that many of these programs have crossover appeal to other life stage groups as well.
1) Young Families
- Challenges: The couple must juggle the demands of career building, childcare and finances with maintaining their relationship
- Priorities: Spending quality time with children, spouses, and friends and balancing work, home, childcare, sports and recreational activities, religion, volunteering, friends and social networks, etc.
- Popular community programs: Interactive activities and events designed to promote socialization, motor skill development and health and wellness for parents and young children. Examples include play groups; parent and tot/child programs; Tiny Tot swim classes; stroller walks; story-telling, themed costume parties; music explanation programs, singing; painting and drawing classes, etc. In addition, on-site daycare programs and Parents’ Night Out events with babysitting provided by the Association are also provided by some communities to allow parents to enjoy much-needed alone-time.
2) Families with Teenagers
- Challenges: The couple must keep lines of communication open, strengthen parent-teen relationships, help teens navigate friends, maturity, online connections, educational achievement, etc. As many parents of teenagers can attest, this is often considered the most challenging stage in the family lifecycle
- Priorities: Keeping the family connected and managing each member’s needs and desires while also maintaining a fulfilling relationship as a couple
- Popular community programs: Educational, recreational, entertainment and social activities and events that target teens, adults and families, both together and separately, such as pool parties; cookouts; campfires; outdoor concerts; sport and athletic leagues and programs; outdoor adventure activities, like hiking, biking and climbing, etc. In addition, Youth Mentorship programs can be set up with local schools and social service agencies that enable teens to give back to the local community, through activities like car washes; volunteering at homeless shelters; assisting homeowners with needs, such as computer and social networking assistance; etc.
3) The Sandwich Phase
- Challenges: In this in-between phase, the couple must juggle the financial and emotional demands of raising their own family with caring for their older parents.
- Priorities: Balancing home life, work life and meeting a wide range of needs in areas of health, social involvement, and maintenance for both younger and older family members
- Popular programs: Events and activities targeting adults, kids, teens and seniors, both separately and together, such as outdoor summer concerts with resident or outside performers; sports clinics; visual and performing arts classes and clubs; community camp-outs; cultural diversity festivals with food, games, dances, crafts and music of different cultures to help bridge diverse resident populations; land and aquatic exercise classes and events; decorated golf cart parades in large-scale communities; etc.
4) Launching Stage
- Challenges: The Launching Stage begins when the first child goes to college and ends with the “empty nest.” In this stage, the couple and the family must reinvent themselves when their children leave home.
- Priorities: Reconnecting with spouses, discovering new shared and individual interests, and maximizing enjoyment in their new-found leisure time
- Popular community programs: A range of events and programing for couples together or individually, such as artisan food and wine tours (day trips or travel excursions); biking; kayaking; sailing and scuba clubs or excursions; pot lucks or progressive dinners; gourmet cooking demonstrations; “Men Who Cook” lessons; gardening and lifestyle lectures and classes; wine and cheese parties; book clubs; etc.
5) Boomerang Families
- Challenges: In this phase, empty-nester families must deal with the financial and emotional needs and challenges of young and middle-aged adults moving back to the nest due to financial need, change of circumstances, lack of readiness for independence, etc.
- Priorities: Managing family relationships with needs that sometimes conflict emotionally and financially
- Popular community programs: A range of educational, recreational, entertainment and social activities and events targeted specifically to adults, families, couples and singles, such as movie nights; singles’ lunch or dinner outings; tailgating parties and other community gatherings themed to major sporting events; performing arts programs; Book Clubs; programs that involve homeowners and their pets; etc.
6) Aging in Place Couples and Single Adults
- Challenges: Older adults who are living away from other family members need connection and support in a variety of areas
- Priorities: Maintaining health, happiness, independence, sense of fulfillment and connection to family and social networks
- Popular community programs: Educational, fitness and wellness, entertainment, creative arts and social activities and events specialized to families, grandchildren, singles and seniors, both separately and inter-generationally. Examples can include walking programs; aquatic exercise; nutrition classes; yoga; tai chi; health screenings; wine & cheese parties; dance; drama; arts & crafts; “Senior” proms; “Adopt-A-Grandparent” programs with local schools; lifelong learning series; sports clinics; card games; environmental education programs; etc.
Creating compelling community activities, events and programs that appeal to residents at various life stages – and will continue to appeal to them as they age – is both an art and a science. For information about multigenerational lifestyle communities, as well as developing and managing programming to meet their residents’ needs, please contact FirstService Residential