Housing project set to unite seniors and students under one roof

LONDON: A developer is planning an intergenerational housing community. The 128-unit apartment complex would be home to 100-plus independent older adults and about 20 students enrolled at the nearby College of Health Sciences.

Since 1886, Tabitha has built and strengthened community partnerships to meet current and future needs.

The visionary senior care provider supports seniors and families across 25 counties. It has a solid history of addressing gaps in the community and filling them.

The latest proposal by the Lincoln-based institution is one of its boldest and most courageous: Tabitha plans to build the first-of-its-kind intergenerational housing community for at least 100 seniors (ages 65 and over) and about 20 students enrolled at the nearby Bryan College of Health Sciences. The proposed community is an estimated $22.6 million project that is planned to occupy what is now greenspace on the southwest corner of Tabitha’s main campus at 48th and L streets.

“This will be independent living for active adults, and an opportunity for young students to be their neighbors and to interact with them,” said Christie Hinrichs, president and CEO of Tabitha. The four-story building will house 128 units.


The Tabitha Foundation has initiated a two-phase fundraising campaign to raise $12.5 million, with $5 million secured to fund the beginning of construction, and $7.5 million in fundraising to continue as construction is underway. Fundraising began in earnest in late April, she said.

“Based on the tremendous support the community has given to the project so far, we have every reason to believe that construction will be underway in early 2022, with completion targeted for the summer or fall of 2023,” Hinrichs reported.

Because the project is focused on moderate-income seniors – and there may be a need to subsidize a portion of residents’ rents should their income fall below the targeted market range – Tabitha has built in an estimated $100,000 annual budget for rental assistance.

Intergenerational living

Tabitha’s proposal addresses three challenges:

  • An epidemic of loneliness across generations;
  • A lack of moderately priced housing; and
  • A shortage of health care workforce employees to support seniors.

Loneliness. There is a big difference between choosing to be alone and feeling lonely. Studies say more than three in five Americans are lonely – including 43% of seniors and 63% of college-aged students. “Togetherness only occurs when we are physically together,” said Hinrichs. “Loneliness is more damaging to health than obesity and smoking 15 cigarettes per day.” The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.

Affordable housing. It’s projected in 2029 there will be 14.4 million seniors in the U.S. in need of moderately priced housing. In the last decade, Lincoln’s retirement-age population has steadily outpaced that of younger generations and housing solutions have not matched demand. The market has experienced an influx of senior housing options, but they are either too expensive and amenity-rich or they have low-income restrictions. College students seek moderately priced housing that allows them to live, work and go to school in close proximity.

Workforce shortage.In 2019, the direct care workforce for older adults consisted of almost 4.5 million individuals, including 2.2 million home care workers. Direct care workers provide support to 20 million older adults who need help with self-care and other daily tasks due to physical, cognitive, developmental and/or behavioral conditions. From 2016 to 2060, the older adult population is expected to double while the ages 18-64 demographic will increase by only 15%. The caregiver support ratio will decrease from 31:1 to 12:1 during this period.

Avid interest shown

Interest in the Tabitha intergenerational proposal is rising as the vision is shared, according to Joyce Ebmeier, senior vice president for strategic planning at Tabitha.

“We’re researching and gauging interest through different forums, and we’re getting very positive responses as we’ve shared the vision,” Ebmeier reported. “We’ve done internal and external research in that regard, and it’s been very encouraging.”

Monthly apartment rent for the proposed community is expected to run in the neighborhood of $925 to $1,450.

Ebmeier said the proposal covers the bases for the three main challenges targeted by the project. “This is seen as an antidote for loneliness, a way to strengthen the health care workforce, and to reach the moderate-income category,” she said.

Proponents of the project are excited that the community will be in the heart of Lincoln – in the Witherbee neighborhood – and is already a part of the Tabitha campus.

Interaction linking generations is expected to be key. The project will include an underground parking garage and a nearly 10,000-square-foot commons area with amenities such as dining space, a fitness center, multipurpose room and lounge.


Sharon Seagren is among those giving the proposal a thumbs-up. She has been an independent-living resident of The Landing at Williamsburg since May 2013 and a widow since November 2018. As a member of Tabitha’s InterGenerational Steering Committee, she helped gather feedback from 15-20 independent residents at The Landing, collecting their thoughts and ideas in a survey presented by Tabitha. Recently, she shared with the design group her thoughts about the common areas and apartments in the Intergen Building.

“Just the thought of sharing a meal and interacting over a game of shuffleboard, or enjoying time around an open fire pit, sounds very inviting,” Seagren said.

Each apartment will have its own kitchen, but meal planning as a shared activity will be encouraged, using shared space with an equipped kitchen, said Hinrichs. Catered meals are also a possibility.

The social distancing protocols necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic have underscored the importance of interaction and face-to-face contact, added Seagren, a mother of two and a grandmother of six.

“Facetime is wonderful … I’ve enjoyed Facetime with my family while having dinner,” Seagren said of the popular social media feature. “But seeing loved ones on a screen isn’t like giving them a pat on the back, or a hug, or attending any of their activities.”

The built-in sense of belonging, spawned by the Tabitha InterGenerational Project, will bring together seniors and students – two groups reporting high degrees of loneliness.

Committee chairs

Pinnacle Bank executive Mark Hesser, who co-chairs the InterGenerational Project Steering Committee with his wife, Kathi, is excited by the Tabitha project’s exclusivity. “I know of no other project in the United States in which seniors and students are interconnected in such a way,” he said.

Hesser said he and his wife are longtime Tabitha supporters and that both his parents and his in-laws have a history of Tabitha involvement.

The first step for the project to move forward was taken Sept. 27, when the Lincoln City Council declared a blight designation that includes the Tabitha Senior Care campus west of 48th from Randolph to J streets. The blight designation means Tabitha could be eligible for tax-increment financing, though because it is a nonprofit, Tabitha would have to designate the property as private and pay taxes on it.