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Why a Continuing Care Retirement ‘Camp’ Is a Winning Play

A continuing care retirement community (CCRC) in California is taking resident engagement and intergenerational programming to the next level this summer and gleaning benefits in diverse areas.

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Nineteen soon-to-be fourth grade students are attending day camp at Front Porch’s Villa Gardens CCRC in Pasadena two days a week for four weeks, free of charge. Villa Gardens is paying next to nothing for the program, which has earned the senior living community positive publicity. And the residents are socializing with and imparting wisdom on “the future of our country,” Brice Harris, a Village Gardens resident and the chairman of the summer camp project, tells Senior Housing News.

Add in the fact that the program helps the not-for-profit community maintain its 501(c)(3) status and it looks like turning the CCRC into a summer camp is an all-around win for Front Porch. The Front Porch family of companies includes 10 retirement communities that include independent living and a variety of other care levels.

Astrophysics and Ancient Egypt

Harris is one of the “younger older people” involved with the campers, at 83 years old, he tells SHN. A retired history professor from Occidental College in Los Angeles, he is teaching the campers about a subject he knows very well—ancient Egypt.

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That’s the way the camp has been run so far; Villa Gardens residents are leading classes on subjects they mastered during their teaching careers, only modified for the minds of 8- and 9-year-olds.

“We present the programs using whatever talents we have,” Harris says.

A retired astrophysicist from the California Institute of Technology, for instance, is teaching the campers about the size of the world.

“He’s far over-qualified,” Harris jokes.

Residents are also taking part in various activities with the campers, including lawn sports, singing, crafts, art projects and swimming lessons. Lifeguards and swim instructors from the Pasadena Aquatic Center are volunteering their time to teach campers how to swim in Villa Gardens’ pool, Roberta Jacobsen, president of Front Porch Communities and Services, tells SHN.

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Even though all campers attend the camp free-of-charge, with residents and Pasadena community members volunteering their time, the financial contribution by Villa Gardens to run the camp has been “so minor, it’s insignificant,” Jacobsen says.

“We’re providing meeting space, lunch, a camp t-shirt, a backpack and some materials,” Jacobsen explains. The CCRC’s bus picks the campers up and transports them to and from field trips.

 

Villa Gardens was originally built as a retirement community for teachers, and that rich history of teachers living in the community has made the project implementation seamless. Between 50 and 75 of Villa Gardens’ 200 residents have helped or are currently helping out in some way with the summer camp, which, Jacobsen says, is 99% resident-driven, led and operated.

Wild Success

In the eyes of Villa Gardens, the intergenerational summer camp project has been a wild success.

“To date, it has been incredibly successful and well-received,” Jacobsen says. Villa Gardens has received plenty of positive publicity for the camp, including from two local television channels that have picked up the story, she adds.

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Additionally, the camp meshes well with Villa Gardens’ not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) status, Jacobsen says.

“We have a commitment and an obligation to meet needs of the community in which we operate,” Jacobsen says.

The intergenerational summer camp is a start, to say the least.

Written by Mary Kate Nelson