Intergenerational Living Project


St. Joseph’s Rehabilitation and Residence (SJR) in Portland had the usual challenges finding nurse aides and was spending too much on agency staffing, which was more costly and led to inconsistent care for residents.


With the help of CEO Peggy Farrington’s interest in other health systems in other countries, they decided to “grow their own” staff by using a model in the Netherlands called “Humanitas.”

Following the philosophy of Humanitas, “being a good neighbor,” in 2016 SJR worked with the local Career Development offices in the surrounding colleges to ask students to apply to the Intergenerational Living Program. If accepted, the students are able to live in a dorm room for free, receive a discounted meal plan and work 16 hours a week as a Certified Nursing Assistant or Neighborhood Assistant.

Implementation Details:

After being accepted to the program and undergoing rigorous background checks, the students enter either a January-May or May-August program that includes orientation, training, 16 hours a week of work (more if desired and available), monthly check-ins with the CEO, HR director, and other key leaders and group discussions.

Students already certified as nurse aides provide direct care such as feeding, dressing, and personal care. Neighborhood Assistants receive CNA training from SJR and help with getting certified. Neighborhood Assistants cannot provide direct care but instead make beds, deliver and set up meals, clean equipment, and assist with activities, transportation, and answering call bells before getting certified. Students also are invited to attend any other trainings held by SJR.

SJR pays Certified Nursing Assistants $12 per hour while Neighborhood Assistants receive $11 per hour. Rates are pegged to market and facility policies.

Students are encouraged to eat with and interact with residents -- one community member told a student how having him around made him feel less lonely. SJR provides its current 12 students with a private room, shared bath and common room. SJR asks students to stay a minimum of 2 semesters.

Factors for Success:

  • Think creatively about space – even 1 or 2 spare rooms in your community are enough to start the program.
  • Realize that this is an opportunity to expose mature, young people to working in aging services – and have a better understanding of caring for older adults. While most of the SJR students are in health-related majors, some have never been in an aging services community before.
  • Provide flexible scheduling hours for students such as 4, 8, and 12-hour shifts.
  • Establish a Code of Conduct.


  • In April 2017, SJR saved nearly $8,000 by using students rather than agency staff. During that month, students worked a total of 560 hours, which, if converted to dollars, would be a total of $6,200 paid to the students. In contrast, SJR would have paid approximately $14,000 to agency staff. As the program grows, the hours worked by students will grow and dependence on agency staff will decrease.
  • Some students come in for additional work beyond the minimum of 16 hours per week, which also has greatly reduced the need for temporary staff.
  • While students commit to 2 semesters, some have said they will stay until they graduate, which is 4-6 semesters.

Need more information?

Contact Peggy Farrington, CEO/Administrator St. Joseph’s Rehabilitation and Residence