LeadingAge Magazine · January/February 2014 • Volume 04 • Number 01

Seniors, Athletes Have a Ball While Building Bridges

January 04, 2014 | by Peggy Adams and Jeff Rose

These CCRCs put a new twist on “intergenerational programs” by hosting young athletes.

Aging-services providers are always good neighbors in their communities, and sometimes find themselves in the right place at the right time to help build connections while spicing up the lives of residents. Here are two stories of LeadingAge members that put a new twist on intergenerational programming when they hosted professional (but not highly paid) athletes in 2013.

Last summer my continuing care retirement community, Ingleside at King Farm in Rockville, MD, was part of a unique experiment in intergenerational living. Three professional soccer players on the Washington Spirit—Diana Matheson, Robyn Gayle and Connie Pohlers—lived at Ingleside during their season.

The unusual living arrangement proved to be a “win-win” for the athletes and the residents. For the players, sharing an apartment in a retirement community solved a common dilemma for professional women athletes who often struggle to find affordable housing on their modest salaries. For residents, the opportunity to regularly share meals and stories with people in their 20s and 30s put an added bounce in everyone’s step.

“Despite the age differences, it’s been amazing how smoothly the young women transitioned into the community,” says Marilyn Leist, Ingleside at King Farm’s executive director. “These athletes and our residents learned from each other.”

Gayle was quoted in a Washington Post article as saying “Whether they were doctors or homemakers, they all have these incredible life stories—about themselves, their children, their grandchildren. It’s just so enriching for us.”

The housing opportunity arose when Steve Gurney, publisher of Guide to Retirement Living SourceBook, was contacting sports teams about an event promoting stories on intergenerational connections. When Spirit General Manager Chris Hummer told Gurney about the difficulty of finding affordable housing for athletes, he connected Hummer with Ingleside at King Farm.

I hope we have the chance to again host professional athletes from the Spirit or other teams. This past summer our sister community, Westminster at Lake Ridge, housed the athletic trainer for the Potomac Nationals, a minor league baseball team in Woodbridge, VA, affiliated with the Washington Nationals. In his 16th season as a trainer for minor league baseball teams, Eric Montague said the retirement community was the “Nicest place I’ve ever stayed in.”

Aside from the amenities these beautiful communities offer teams, we felt a special bond with the three young women who temporarily called Ingleside home. They often said living here was like having 100 grandparents. Like grandparents, we went to their games, knitted pillows for their apartments and taught them how to play bridge. I believe I speak for the entire community by saying that I hope these “grandchildren” will stay with us again next year.

Written by Peggy Adams, a resident at Ingleside at King Farm.

In the summer of 2013, the relationship between Friendship Village of Schaumburg, Schaumburg, IL, and the Schaumburg Boomers, a professional baseball team that plays in the Frontier League, was fun and mutually beneficial. Two members of the Boomers were hosted by Friendship Village over the summer.

The idea for the partnership came about as Boomers management was seeking housing for players during the baseball season. Friendship Village, which promotes a healthy, active and engaging lifestyle, embraces the infusion of youth onto its campus.

Friendship Village created innovative activities based around the unique relationship. These included a meet-and-greet party for the players, a VIP tour of the Boomers’ stadium for Friendship Village residents, and attendance at Boomer games.

“We have a group of residents who got press credentials and attended games as the media. They ran cameras, conducted interviews and did pre-game and post-game shows,” says Mike McCann, director of lifestyles at Friendship Village. On the flip side, Boomers players joined with Friendship Village residents and associates during a Men’s National Health Week water volleyball tournament at the community.

“Anytime we can build a community relationship, it adds tremendous value to what we offer,” says McCann. “Many of our residents are sports enthusiasts, and even those who are not are really following the Boomers. They’re engaged with the players. It’s a truly unique relationship. We feel like the Boomers are ‘our’ team. With the Cubs and the Sox not playing very well, it’s fun to follow our own home team which is currently in second place.”

Written by Jeff Rose, lifestyles manager, Friendship Village of Schaumburg.