Lawmakers discuss efforts to establish more intergenerational child care facilities in Oregon


Shane Ersland


Lawmakers discussed efforts to expand the number of intergenerational child care facilities in Oregon during a House Interim Committee on Early Childhood and Human Services meeting last week.

Rep. Lucetta Elmer (R-McMinnville) said intergenerational child care merges early learners with seniors under one roof, which provides benefits for both parties. She noted that 45 percent of Americans in retirement say they want to work with youth. 

“And older adults who regularly volunteer with children burn 20 percent more calories per week,” Elmer said. “They experience fewer falls, they’re less reliant on canes, and they perform better on memory tests than their peers. Older adults with dementia and other cognitive impairments experience more positive effects during interactions with children.”

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The connection provides more one-on-one educational and reading opportunities for youth, Elmer said. 

“There are some beautiful benefits that come with this,” she said. “Today I wanted to open up the door to elevate the conversation, to see if there’s a space in 2025 where we can explore some policy that could help us out with our child care crisis.”

Rosebud Elementary opened in Portland in April 2023, and it provides one of the state’s few opportunities for intergenerational child care, as students regularly interact with seniors at neighboring Rose Villa Senior Living. Rose Villa Director of Health Services Erin Cornell said the facility has hosted elementary school students for holiday activities and reading opportunities for several years.  

“We always had some measure of intergenerational programming in our community,” Cornell said. “But it was episodic. Those were lovely and fun, but we were wanting to foster the deeper intergenerational connections you can only get with regular interaction, when you’re really developing a relationship, and having generations mix as a part of normal daily activities. In addition, we wanted to support our Rose Villa workforce. That continues to be part of the vision for Rosebud. But the real driver was that deep connection between older adults and children.” 

Cornell noted the lack of sufficient child care availability in Clackamas County, and said many workers did not have access to the services they needed.

“We knew that was a need we could step into. We currently serve 25 kids and their families, and we will have a half dozen more kids joining us in the fall. And we have a waitlist one year into operation. That certainly speaks to the demand in our area. With a population that is growing older, the intergenerational connection can help foster more positive views of what it means to get older, as well as a spirit of service among younger generations.”

— Cornell

Rosebud kids visit Rose Villa’s long-term care community twice a week. The facility’s intergenerational program is still in development, but it is growing. 

“We have a huge list of volunteers from our independent living community, and our biggest challenge is how to facilitate every person to spend time with the children who want to,” Cornell said. “We have a community of almost 400 residents and 25 children, so that’s a lot of grandpals per kid.”

Rose Villa CEO Glen Lewis noted that Oregon is not alone in its limited availability of intergenerational child care opportunities.

“If you look across the country, there are not many campuses,” Lewis said. “There’s not a ton of space where this is being executed across the country, and it’s a wonderful opportunity. The purpose it brings to residents and children is something that continues to amaze me.”

LeadingAge Oregon CEO Kristin Milligan said there are plenty of opportunities to expand intergenerational child care in the state, however. LeadingAge is an association of nonprofit housing and care organizations dedicated to advancing quality aging services.

“We have so many provider members in our community that would be interested in replicating or providing this model. I can think of three off the top of my head that have either attempted to do a similar model to this or are in the process of trying to do a similar model to this, and are coming up against very specific barriers.”

— Milligan

Kelly Odegaard, administrator and CEO of Oregon Veterans’ Home, said staff wants to establish a child care center on its Lebanon campus. The Lebanon facility serves up to 154 veterans and their families, and employs 266 workers, including 140 certified nursing aids. 

“Since opening, I’ve had the dream to facilitate establishing a daycare within walking distance of the Lebanon campus, with the main purpose of recruiting and retaining employees for the home,” Odegaard said. “Linn County is a child care desert, defined by fewer than 33 percent of the county’s children having access to a licensed daycare slot. The lack of affordable and accessible child care in our service area requires providers to be creative on how we meet this need.”

Oregon’s long-term care workforce is particularly vulnerable to child care challenges, Odegaard said. 

“As a sector, we are seeing increasing demand for services as baby boomers age that require a robust trained workforce,” he said. “And long-term care has still not recovered from employment losses incurred during the pandemic. During the height of the pandemic, the nursing home industry lost 244,600 jobs, and (it) has only recovered about half of that. Which is the only healthcare sector that hasn’t fully recovered. All other sectors have recovered, and exceeded that.”

The Lebanon campus has space available for a daycare that would serve up to 50 kids, Odegaard said.

“We’re currently in discussions with (the Oregon Economic Development Association) about pursuing this possibility and collaborating with architectural firms to build an appropriate design to utilize the asset to serve this purpose. Despite having the land available, the main barriers we still need to work through to bring the vision of an on-site daycare to life are finding an operator, funds to finish the building, playground construction, licensing, land permitting, start-up costs, and liability insurance costs. There’s lots of liability with daycares.”

— Odegaard

Lewis said the legislature can help stakeholders address several barriers to establishing more intergenerational child care in Oregon. This includes funding the Employment Related Day Care (ERDC) program, he said.   

“We have so many team members that would support Rosebud (and) bring their children to Rosebud, but there’s a waiting list through the ERDC,” Lewis said. “And that’s not a good situation for where we stand.” 

The legislature can also incentivize interaction between older adults and children, and address construction cost barriers, Lewis said. 

“These types of models are not cheap to build,” he said. “They’re certainly not cheap to operate. But when it comes to the actual construction costs, for many organizations, that would be a barrier to entry.”

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