Although most 55-plus communities are their own separate “micro-villages,” make no mistake: They are very much a part of the broader community as well. It is often a symbiotic relationship, benefiting all parties. Retirement communities rely on members of nearby areas for staff, and the surrounding neighborhood or town gains from the presence of the 55 community as a jobs-creator and as patrons to local businesses. Another way some senior living communities engage with their nearby neighbors is via 55-plus intergenerational programs.

Intergenerational programs bring together seniors and younger generations to the benefit of both. One retirement community in New Jersey has even found a way to make a meaningful impact on their staff members who are also high school students.

Meaningful jobs for high schoolers at a 55-plus community

Cedar Crest is a continuing care retirement community (CCRC or life plan community) located in Pompton Plains, New Jersey. Home to over 1,800 residents, the 130-acre campus has just about everything a senior could need including a CVS pharmacy, a Lakeland Bank branch, five restaurants, a library, and a salon, to name just a few of the campus’s amenities. And because it is a CCRC, Cedar Crest also offers a full continuum of on-site care services, from assisted living and memory care to full-time skilled nursing care.

All of those on-campus services and amenities require quite a bit of manpower, which is why Cedar Crest has a staff of around 980. This makes the CCRC an important employer within their broader community, providing jobs to both highly skilled employees (like physicians, RNs, and pharmacists), as well as those seeking a first-time job — such as local high school students.

These student-employees might work in any number of roles at Cedar Crest, for example, manning a cash register at the pharmacy, preparing or serving meals in one of the restaurants, or keeping the grounds clean and well-landscaped. These jobs are all critical to keeping this retirement community running smoothly, and it is also a good paycheck and great work experience for the students to be able to put on their resumes.

There’s an added advantage to the high school students and the residents of Cedar Crest as well. Hiring local students creates a setting where these different generations are able to spend time with one another.

Many residents enjoy talking with these younger people, who might remind them of their own grandchildren or simply give them a youthful perspective on today’s world. In return, the high schoolers get a chance to learn from the wisdom residents have accumulated over a lifetime, perhaps finding a mentor or even a surrogate grandparent-figure.

>> Related: Intergenerational Programs Unite the Young and the Young-at-Heart

An intergenerational program that honors hard work

The residents of Cedar Crest have found another way to show their appreciation and recognize the dedication and hard work of some of these high school student-employees. In 2003, they launched the Cedar Crest Scholars’ Fund, which awards scholarships to deserving employees. The scholarships are funded by generous donations made by residents of the 55-plus community.

Since the fund’s inception, the residents of Cedar Crest have awarded over $1.5 million in scholarships to members of the CCRC’s staff who are pursuing higher education or trade school. Most recently, the Cedar Crest Scholars’ Fund awarded scholarships to 15 student-staff members, each worth $10,000.

>> Related: Unexpected Benefits of Turning a CCRC Campus Into a “Community Center”

Intergenerational programs at 55 communities are win-win

At myLifeSite, we love sharing stories about the inspiring intergenerational programs so many retirement communities come up with. Hiring local students — and awarding the most deserving with scholarships from the Cedar Crest Scholars’ Fund — are both great examples of how intergenerational programs can work at a senior living community. Such initiatives also demonstrate how retirement community residents can get involved to make a lasting impact within their broader community.

Other examples of innovative intergenerational programs that benefit retirement community residents as well as younger generations include:

  • On-site daycares or before- and after-school programs, which allow residents to spend time with children
  • Tutoring programs, pairing a senior living resident with a student
  • Continuing education courses that invite senior living residents onto a college campus for classes
  • Mentoring initiatives that give residents a chance to offer sage guidance to young people
  • “Open-door” policies, which allow members of the broader community to utilize certain services or amenities on the retirement community’s campus, such as their dining facilities

These intergenerational programs are mutually valuable to both the 55-plus community residents and the young people they interact with, but there is perhaps an even larger benefit. Such programs drive a retirement community’s purpose and culture in a big way.

Many of today’s retirees are community-minded and socially engaged. They know that we each have an important role to play in making the world a better place. By taking part in intergenerational programs — like tutoring, mentoring, or even providing jobs and scholarships to young people — they are contributing in a meaningful way to their broader community and leaving their mark on the world. And retirement communities with a culture that acknowledges the value of intergenerational programs are increasingly attractive to today’s senior living prospects.

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