The Victory Lap unites young and old for mutual social and economic benefit. Integrating older foster youth into retirement communities provides them with housing stability, employment opportunities and the support of caring adults. In turn, the senior housing provider (SLP) enjoys an on-site workforce, revenue from otherwise vacant units and the magic of intergenerational friendships.
About 22,000 kids age out of foster care at age 18 every year in the US. Because it is unrealistic to expect a child who has grown up in “the system” to be totally independent at 18, over half of states now offer “extended” foster care services. These housing, education, job training and life skills supports are generally available through age 21 and cost the government and non-profits between $2,000 and $5,000 per month per youth (depending on the state and level of assistance). Despite the substantial investment, outcomes for this population are disheartening. Less than 4% ever obtain any kind of college degree. Two years after they age out, 30-40% have been homeless and 50% are unemployed. Those that are employed make an average of just $7,500 per year. The Jim Casey Foundation estimates that each youth that ages out of care receives an average of $300,000 in public services in the years that follow. Those that spiral into mental illness, substance abuse and incarceration cost well over $1 million. The overall burden is conservatively estimated at $8 billion annually.
Meanwhile, over 100,000 senior living apartments--in safe neighborhoods, near colleges, on bus routes, with plenty of entry level jobs and caring mentors around—sit vacant. Industry occupancy is at its lowest since 2009, and there is a nationwide labor shortage. With staff turnover and short-staffing strongly correlated to deteriorating financial performance and poor resident satisfaction, the case to unite these two populations is compelling.