The Magic of a High School in an Assisted Living Center

Special program brings generations together.

(SofikoS /

Americans are reaching the age of 65 at a rate of 11,000 people per day. And with life expectancies reaching almost 80 years old, we now have a whole generation of untapped potential! For over a decade now, residents of a nursing home in New York have shared their lives–and their building–with high schoolers in a creative approach to exploring the best these generations have to offer one another.

At the Hebrew Home in Riverdale, New York, senior residents have been working with the students of the HOPE Program in ways that have enriched the lives of over 400 students and countless residents to date.

This visionary program has the highest graduation and attendance rate of any local alternative high school program. And as Hebrew Home resident Zelda Fassler put it,

“It’s what keeps my mind fresh, it's what keeps me feeling young. People say you move into a nursing home and that’s it. But the HOPE class gives my life here meaning.”

Bringing HOPE to Hebrew Home
The HOPE program began in 1992 as Hebrew Home CEO Dan Reingold saw a two-fold problem in his community. Firstly, the need to enhance the quality of life for the residents of the home. And secondly, to give young people with learning disabilities a place to learn in a nurturing environment. 

Now, the program focuses on providing opportunities for education and vocational training to students with learning disabilities and autism.

Students involved in HOPE split their time between academics and working with the residents. This gives them the opportunity to learn alongside those in the Hebrew Home and to train for jobs in healthcare after high school!

This nurturing environment creates a space for connection between two communities that are very often isolated in society.

In an interview with the Seattle Times, former HOPE student and then 12 year Hebrew Home employee, Channel Reid, beautifully said of the residents she has befriended over the years,

“They believe in you, they give you this love,” she said. “Some of them are just so sweet it’s hard to not be attached to them.”

The power of a caring adult
Part of what makes the HOPE Program so successful is that it solves two problems with one solution–young people in need of community, purpose, and vocational training, and seniors in need of social interaction, purpose, and to use a lifetime of experience. These same issues are common to so many youth and seniors across the world, and thankfully we are starting to see more organizations focused on bringing these two groups together.

The Stanford Center for Longevity partnered with–now,–and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation in June of 2014 for the “Pass it On” conference to gather thought leaders finding a way to enrich the lives of older adults and youth through finding ways to bring them together. The report from the conference is an engaging and uplifting look at what’s possible if we are able to bring together the population of people entering retirement and youth that need their mentorship and support.

One of the most moving lines from the report reads:“Meaningful interaction across the generations reaps clear benefits for young people, comparably important feelings of purpose for older adults, and enrichment that extends to the broader community. All of society reaps the vitality of a new generation of community-oriented citizens, mentored by the generation that will leave the stage ahead of them.”

High School Grad Gifts Scholarship to Students in Need
This Organization Helps Make Nursing Homes Feel Like Home
This High School is Making Room for Tomorrow’s Learning Trends