BiG | Borgo intergenerazionale Greco: three generations under one roof in Milan

June 30, 2022 |  Cristian Zanelli

A Blog by Cristian Zanelli, Vice president of ABCittá and coordinator of BiG

BiG | Borgo intergenerational Greco is an urban regeneration project that has restored the historic Cascina Conti in the Greco district of Milan. The project, comprising 25 mini-apartments, shared spaces and services is managed by ABCittà in agreement with the Municipality of Milan.

BiG is an innovative experience that facilitates collaboration between people of different ages and with different needs in a place of interaction with the neighbourhood and the city. The 25 mini apartments are rented to young students and workers, independent older adults and single parents with children.

Intergenerational baby-sitting

Starting in January 2020, ABCittà launched the start-up phase of the BiG project. Its design process had begun five years earlier in 2015. During this time there was lots of discussion between the Public Sector (Municipality of Milan – Urban and Social sectors), the private sector (Borgo Cascina Conti – constructor of the entire Integrated Intervention Plan) and the non-profit sector (social cooperative society). A special agreement was signed, whereby ABCittà became the Social Manager of the BiG service for the next no. 20 years. At the end of this period, BiG will be returned to the Municipality of Milan.

For the creation of BiG, ABCittà was inspired by Multigenerational Homes that were launched in Germany in 2006. The idea is to bring together under one roof groups and services that previously operated in isolation from one another, i.e. childcare groups, youth centres, parent and family centres, community centres for older adults and advice centres. BiG combined the elements of the Multigenerational Homes model and created a multigenerational living space where students, young workers, single parents with children and independent older adults live together and benefit from the mutual support they offer each other. Some specialised support via teams of educators and social workers is also available.

An intergenerational encounter at the BiG library

The service is configured as a hub of mutual help, civic volunteering and social interaction also with the neighbourhood around BiG. Educators organise shared activities for the inhabitants and the wider community. Autonomy is a goal to be achieved both for single parents with children and for students and young workers who choose to live in the project. Preserving autonomy is also the goal for the older adults living in the project.  Students and young workers sign a service contract with ABCittà whereby they agree to provide 10 hours of voluntary work per month supporting either other residents or the communal activities that take place in the common spaces.

Today 34 people live in BiG: 5 older adults (aged 65 to 90), 6 single mothers (aged 20 to 35) with their 6 children (aged 0 to 5) and 17 students and young workers (aged 20 to 36). The BiG Residential Service has responded to a new social need that is not limited to the mere need of vulnerable groups for subsidised rent but includes the active support at different levels and different degrees preserving both autonomy and communal living for all ages.

Intergenerational after school care at BiG

Since 2020, many intergenerational activities have taken place in BiG: Italian and language courses for migrants, baby-sitting services, after-school care, community meetings, recreational activities, a vegetable garden, and many events.

In June 2022, BiG was awarded the membership of the TOY for Quality Programme, which recognises the commitment and value of this project in connecting generations and all the precious work BiG is doing with its residents and the local community.

For more information about BiG, please contact Cristian Zanelli: