Multigenerational houses aim to revive the idea of interaction and mutual support between young and old, so that they actively interact with one another, support one another and learn from one another. This may take the form of a residential community or a community of shared values, or may even be a place where people who are not related live and work together to support themselves individually and as a community. This term is also used to describe a daytime meeting place open to the public where members of different generations can meet. The activities and services they offer are generally based on self-help and volunteer work.
Multigenerational homes in Austria
The managing director of GiP GmbH (Generations in Partnership), Bernhard Seidler, states that, unlike Germany, Austria does not currently have a dedicated state funding model. Multigeneration homes are financed, for instance, using a combined model of assisted living for elderly people and childcare. The organisation develops and implements individual educational concepts and intergenerational projects centred around all the generations living together. GiP provides qualified personnel trained in intergenerational work for this and offers project consulting and development for investors in a generational context. Together with Caritas, GiP has developed a training course to teach skills for intergenerational work (see report), which will start in October 2017.
Waltendorf multigenerational house – living together and learning from one another
According to its voluntary director, Karin Steffen, the Waltendorf multigenerational house (MGH) in Graz is currently the only MGH in Austria operating as a daytime public facility. It is a venue with several multifunctional spaces and a garden where children, young people, adults and senior citizens can chat, spend time together and support one another. Different offerings are developed in a collaborative process between all those involved. The cosy kitchen that houses the daytime café is the focal point of the house. In addition to numerous target group-specific educational offerings, the MGH also offers joint intergenerational activities such as ball games and puzzles, playing music together and creative activities.
The building that houses the MGH is over 200 years old and served as the district office until 2009. In order to keep the building for local use, the Schutzverein Ruckerlberg, which was established in 1968 and is thus the oldest active citizens’ group in Graz, came up with the idea of using this beautiful house as a multigenerational house, which would keep it open to the public. The facility is managed on a voluntary basis by three senior citizens, who work in a network with numerous cooperation partners. The funding organisation is the City of Graz, which covers the cost of maintaining the premises.
Group activities promote learning
The house’s declared aim is to revive the concept of neighbourly help by people getting to know one another and actively doing things and learning together. This has already yielded many friendships, as well as small and large-scale initiatives such as helping to find childcare or companions. In addition to group music, dance, sewing, craft and cookery activities, and a regular intergenerational get-together, there is also tutoring available, as well as lectures and talks.
“Things often happen organically as a result of chance encounters. Nobody is scared to approach one another in this house. We try to make the offerings extremely accessible in order to reach as many people as possible. We also organise intercultural offerings for immigrants such as German conversation classes and excursions, but you have to pick them up from their homes as otherwise they wouldn’t dare to come,” says coordinator Karin Steffen. The house also runs participation projects with other associations and social environment projects (test environment) through the Austrian Institute for Family Support (IFF), Social Environment 1. There are also plans for an intergenerational theatre in the future and mental skills training for children. Karin Steffen’s key desires for the future include holding even more free events for everyone and ensuring that they can continue operating by appointing a part-time employee.
Subsidy programme for multigenerational living relaunched in Germany
Multigenerational houses have been receiving funding in Germany since 2006 with the idea of transferring the concept of the extended family to modern society. The conceptual approach includes ‘learning from one another’ (learning opportunities and sponsorship programmes, support programmes), ‘learning with one another’ (cultural offerings and leisure activities) and ‘learning about one another’ (e.g. conversation cafés).
The original idea is now part of everyday life in around 550 communities and districts. The subsidy programme for multigenerational living run by the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens and Youth (BMFSFJ) was relaunched in 2017. It pursues three horizontal objectives: intergenerational work, integration of volunteering and community orientation. It is implemented with EU, federal and local funding in the form of a co-financing model.
Karin Steffen from MGH Waltendorf and Bernhard Seidler from GiP in Graz agree that a subsidy programme of this type that facilitated the implementation of intergenerational projects would be welcomed in Austria.
Additional information in German:
- Intergenerational learning - learning together on an equal footing (DE, EN, IT)
- 13/2011 edition of the Meb periodical for adult education: Adult education as a factor in active ageing (Erwachsenenbildung als Faktor aktiven Alterns)
- eb.at article on Additional qualification in skills for intergenerational work at the Federal Institute for Adult Education (bifeb) (scheduled start: 10/2017)
- ‘Generations in partnership (Generationen in Partnerschaft)’ project
- Graz-Waltendorf multigenerational house
Text/Author of original article in German: Christine Bärnthaler/CONEDU
Redaktion/Editing of original article in German: Karin Kulmer/CONEDU