Column: Young at Heart, Rebuilding Together Alexandria

Column: Young at Heart, Rebuilding Together Alexandria


Volunteers build park benches.

Volunteers build park benches. Photo Contributed


Katharine Dixon


Rebuilding Together Alexandria volunteers from Fannie Mae install bike racks at Lacy Court.

We spend a lot of our time helping limited income elderly and disabled residents remain homeowners. By making repairs and upgrades to their homes, we are able to keep homes safer, healthier and more affordable for aging seniors so they can remain in them.

But our work knows no age boundaries. In fact, our volunteers have also spent countless hours ensuring that our communities’ homes and neighborhoods are also great environments for children.

And this makes sense. We have two huge generations sandwiched on opposite ends of the age range. For communities to be healthy and vibrant, we must consider the needs of all as we work on neighborhood revitalization. In fact, a whole movement among cities and communities is called multigenerational planning, which provides a comprehensive approach to balancing the needs of all age groups with the goal of expanding family choices, increasing independence for all ages and strengthening communities, according to a recent Cornell University paper.

On the local level, Rebuilding Together has been incorporating a multigenerational approach into our efforts. In addition to helping seniors, we have worked hard to ensure that low-income families with children have safe places to play and learn in their neighborhoods.

Over the years, we have partnered with nonprofits and neighborhoods that also serve children, such as Carpenter’s Shelter, Hopkins House, Arlandria Chirilagua Housing Cooperative, and Lacy Court. Our volunteers have built cubbies for homeless children, revamped a play room, and created playground art. They have built new play areas, planted gardens to promote healthy eating, and installed bike racks for children living in low-income housing.

Next month, we will be building 60 desks with storage for students who get tutored by Wright to Read, a nonprofit that provides a literacy program for elementary aged kids. This fall, in partnership with RunningBrooke, Fannie Mae, and the City of Alexandria, 60 volunteers will help revitalize a playground that serves a low-income neighborhood.

We also recognize that many families have several generations living under one roof. In fact, the percentage of multigenerational households has topped 16 percent — the highest level since the late 1950s, according to Pew Research.

Having homes that can handle young and old alike are challenges that our volunteers are experiencing more. In addition to providing no-cost upgrades to keep elderly, low-income homeowners safe, such as handrails and ramps, we have also retrofitted some of these homes to include child proofing and other child safety features.

Many generations living in the same neighborhoods and even homes provides stability and a sense of history to communities. Making accommodations to help integrate the generations will make Alexandria a better place to live.

To help revitalize our community — for old and young alike — consider joining us for National Rebuilding Day on April 25, our biggest volunteer event of the year. To learn more, visit or call 703-836-1021.