A number of projects are underway to convert underutilized convents around Chicago into housing for older adults. These buildings once offered living spaces for nuns, but due to a decline in numbers over the past two decades, they have become empty. These places have a deep history within their respective communities and are already designed for communal living, so instead of leaving them abandoned, some developers have seen an opportunity to adapt the buildings to living spaces for older adults.
One developer Point in Time, has plans to convert three such facilities into Spirit Communities, each of which will house 10 to 20 older adults and offer a strong sense of community. The repurposing and renovations of these buildings offers an excellent alternative for older adults who do not want to live alone, as well as allows the buildings to fulfill a purpose similar to what they were originally designed for. Older adults who move to a Spirit Community will have access to many of the same amenities that larger providers offer, and will benefit from the communal focus of the residence and integration into the surrounding community.
The conversion of underused parish buildings into senior housing is not an entirely new concept. Build with Purpose, a real estate company in New Jersey completed a similar project in 2013, and Catholic Health Care Services in Philadelphia converted a boys’ school into senior housing in 2008. There are a number of other examples from around the country of faith-based organizations developing senior living communities. This type of conversion is a great way to repurpose underutilized buildings in a meaningful way, while preserving historic structures and unique architecture. While need is declining for living spaces for personnel of religious organizations, the need for housing options for older adults is increasing, and this is an excellent way to meet that need.
Philadelphia archdiocese repurposes churches, schools as senior housing. Catholic Health Association of the United States. https://www.chausa.org/publications/catholic-health-world/article/june-1-2012/philadelphia-archdiocese-repurposes-churches-schools-as-senior-housing. Accessed April 24, 2017.
Jane Adler. Church-owned buildings reborn as senior homes. Chicago Tribune. http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2003-12-14/business/0312140281_1_senior-housing-seniors-only-villa. Accessed April 24, 2017.