St. Ann Center’s mission is gaining an international audience thanks to Mariano Sanchez, an attendee at the Global Intergenerational Conference we co-hosted with Generations United last summer. Mariano is a tenured professor at the University of Granada, Spain, and collaborates with Pennsylvania State University’s Center for Healthy Aging. This article was shared on Mariano’s website Intergenerational Spaces.
St. Ann Center: An Intergenerational Complex with History and Tradition
St. Ann Center for Intergenerational Care is a complex currently composed of two intergenerational centers founded in 1999 and 2015, respectively, that have developed their own educational and assistance model based on the concept of “community,” defined as: ” One that provides a non-institutional lifestyle of service, choice, compassion and dignity to all ages.”
What does this mean? Well, it’s an original combination of spaces and services for people of different generations. Up to 500 people go every day in search of care and opportunities to learn in an environment that makes them feel at home.
A little history
The Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi arrived in Milwaukee (Wisconsin) in 1849. In 1983, 134 years later, Sr. Edna Lonergan founded the St. Ann Adult Day Care in one of the rooms of the health center of the order.
The project was developed over the years and progressively adapted the spaces of the convent’s basement until 1999, when the first intergenerational center was inaugurated: St. Ann Center for Intergenerational Care-Stein Campus. This new building houses a children’s school, as well as spaces where the mission is to respond to a holistic care program focused on the person (body, mind and spirit).
This first center was growing little by little. For example, the Shepherd House was added, a unit specializing in memory care programs for people affected by Alzheimer’s and other dementias. More recently, in 2015, a new building was dedicated in the northern part of Milwaukee, the Bucyrus Campus, which replicates and improves the original intergenerational center model. The design was done by Zimmerman Architectural Studios.
This project includes an indoor playground and an intergenerational park where the generations can have fun together.
The keys of the model
At the 2017 Global Intergenerational Conference, of which St. Ann Center was co-organizer with the American association Generations United, we attended a seminar in which they discussed how they have developed their two centers and gave interesting clues about how to replicate and be inspired by their model.
Among the most innovative ideas, we highlight:
- Design adapting to the culture of the user community.
- Design, facilitating orientation, movement and comfort for each generation.
- Design interior spaces for games and fun for people of all ages.
- Design thinking about the colors, appearance and sensations of a diversity of generations.
- Design paying close attention to lighting and its role when it comes to facilitating the feeling of home and interaction.
- Design incorporating appropriate equipment and furniture for each age group.
- Design exterior spaces that extend the interior home.
The general message that our American colleagues send us is clear: “The intergenerational design that works must be flexible and adaptable to be able to satisfy the changing needs that arise, and it has to serve as an adequate package to cover the services that the community needs. ” No more no less.