The University of Southern Indiana (USI) is investing in a model home that that could house the elderly as well as students, in order to promote intergenerational communities, or multigenerational housing.
USI will build the modular tiny home, known as a ‘Minka,’ according to Dr. Bill Thomas, founder of the MAGIC approach: Multi-Ability, -Generational, Inclusive Community. Thomas, a geriatrician and national expert on aging, said the tiny home on the USI campus will help challenge the stereotype regarding age.
The minimalist design for the modular, compact, smart-house will be used to study how to maximize independence and well-being for both the elderly and students, as it creates symbiotic dividends, according to Courier & Press. Thomas developed the design to foster “a collaboration between young people and old people that is unfortunately unprecedented in our society,” he said.
Tiny Home Model for Aging Education
The tiny home model will be built in partnership with the AARP, and should be finished by the end of the year.
This is a story about the future,” Thomas said. “This is a story about a new way of thinking about young people and old people, thinking about housing and growth and development, thinking about aging as an asset to our community and not a burden.”
There are currently no plans for the tiny home model to house permanent residents, but it could be used for visiting faculty and other as-needed guests.
USI College of Nursing and Health Professions Dean Ann White said she wants to use the model to expose students across disciplines and challenge notions about the way society views aging, and incorporate research opportunities. One idea is to involve the USI’s children’s center, where children could potentially visit the tiny home model and read to elderly guests.
I think they have a lot of preconceived notions about elders and about those individuals that are aging, and we want to give them an opportunity to see there’s something more out there,” White said. “There’s a lot of wisdom in our older population, and we need to use it to our advantage.”
AARP has participated in the annual Best Intergenerational Communities Awards “to heighten awareness of the importance intergenerational solidarity plays in building strong, supportive communities.” Local governments like Georegetown, Texas, are awarded annually for intergenerational partnership efforts.
Multigenerational Housing Research
University officials believe the Minka model will showcase how it “can be adapted to meet the needs of different ages and abilities,” according to a USI press release. The first Minka, built in New York state, is the home of Thomas’s daughter.
Finland and the Netherlands have tested multigenerational housing, as sharing existing retirement homes filled vacant rooms, reduced costs for students, prevented youth homelessness and enabled intergenerational programming. The city of Helsinki launched “A Home that Fits” program to offer young people reduced rent in exchange for a few hours of social time with their senior neighbors. This video that went viral on social media features young and old residents that express why they feel such multigenerational housing projects are worth investing in:
Tiny Homes that Provide Housing for Vulnerable Populations
The Minka project on USI is another nod to the use of a tiny home as a solution to residency and housing issues across the country.
The Baby Boomer generation is quickly approaching an age that will require many to ask themselves if their current living situation is working; large homes that were once manageable may now seem unwieldy, prompting individuals to question their needs. A tiny home may also appeal to people for financial reasons, particularly in states where senior low income housing opportunities are a challenge.
Another population that could benefit from the growing tiny home trend is the homeless. Cities across the country are looking at ways to assist homeless populations, and tiny home villages are affordable ways some are addressing homelessness, despite intense homeowner opposition in some regions.
In Portland, Oregon, “The Homeless Build a Home” initiative not only builds tiny homes for the homeless in the community, but it doubles as a workforce program that helps educate formerly drug-addicted homeless men in carpentry.
Read our previous coverage of senior housing alternatives:
Rachel Engel and Andrea Fox contributed to this report.