Roughly 12 years ago, Sister Claire Lebeouf recognized the need to give hope to foster children—especially those eight years old and up-- who believed they would never find a stable adoptive family. As a result of this new awareness, Lebeouf decided to create a community in Florida that would bring residents together in a family structure. “Support is the key in the village,” said Lebeouf.
“The concept is really a game and culture-changing concept,” said Paul Halpern, Program Director.
New Life Village is designed to provide foster families and senior citizens with an intergenerational way of living, offering residents much-needed support. New Life Village’s mission is to provide homes for adoptive children that will provide them with safety, stability and permanency in a loving and caring environment. According to Halpern, New Life Village chooses to focus on pairing adoptive families with senior citizens because “Those families really need the extra help and support to be able to succeed, and older adults have a lot to offer.”
There are nearly a half-million children in the United States who are in foster care-- 30,000 of whom will remain in foster care until they reach adulthood. At the same time, there are more than 1.5 million seniors living in nursing or assisted-living homes. Having a community that both embraces adoptive children and seniors is beneficial to all, Halpern says. Foster families are provided with strong mentors and retirees gain new meaning in their lives, a fresh outlook and a renewed sense of being needed.
"New Life Village’s intergenerational community concept offers an environment conducive to young and aging families. Seniors are provided an opportunity to help support and guide children and their adoptive families, contribute to their safety and stability, and build lasting relationships that will enrich their lives and allow them to live independently in their community" said Michelle Cyr, AARP Florida Associate State Director for Advocacy.
New Life Village is located near Palm River, close to working centers and public transportation. Residents are required to have a steady income (Social Security or retirement income accepted) and pay a monthly rent that is offered below market rates to ensure housing affordability. The property spans 11.8 acres, currently hosting 36 townhomes and a full clubhouse, with room to add 102 more units. There is also room for green fields for recreational activities for children, which will be led by the community’s adult residents.
“The expectation here is that residents stay active, rather than cooped up in their houses. We will have an after-school program here, which will be run by the residents of the community, who will be trained in advance. We will have music classes, tutoring, character-building programs, sports and recreational programs—all meant to bring the residents of this community closer together,” said Halpern. “We expect everyone to play a meaningful role in the community.”
[Photo courtesy of Michelle Cyr, AARP Florida Associate State Director]