Grandmas on Greek row: Universities partner with retirement communities

College years are characterized by late nights fueled by alcohol and coffee. It’s a chance for young adults to explore the freedom that comes with living away from home. Where dorm rooms are wild and sleepless chaos, retirement homes are quiet and predictable calm. The typical college experience doesn’t usually involve sharing a living space with elderly neighbors, but retirement communities and universities are establishing programs to connect these two generations.

Affordable student housing

Universities and elderly living facilities are developing programs to save students money and benefit senior residents. With increasing tuition costs, many young adults struggle to find affordable room and board options. Recent data reports show the average cost of student living has been steadily increasing and is now over $10,000 a year. Partnerships with local retirement homes are providing affordable housing for students who live with senior citizens in their homes or retirement communities.

Health benefits for the elderly

This arrangement has advantages for both the students and their elderly neighbors. Studies show that interaction with younger generations is good for senior citizens’ health. Loneliness and social isolation are common problems among older generations. These different concerns negatively affect a senior’s health, make them more vulnerable to elder abuse and are linked to increased mortality. Social contact helps fight dementia, regulate blood pressure and battle symptoms of depression.

Companions, not caregivers

Students save money and get valuable experience when they live with aging members of our population. Requirements are different for every program, but the young people in this intergenerational friendship are not expected to be caregivers. Many participants want to become involved in the lives of their elderly companions and choose to help around the house. Simple tasks of changing a lightbulb, carrying groceries or spending time together help create meaningful relationships.

New York University

New York University is one of the first major institutions in the U.S. to develop a program that partners students and seniors. Starting with just 10 to 15 students, program directors are hoping to expand the initiative if it’s successful. Students who are selected will pay a reduced rate to live in the spare bedroom of an elderly host. The host will receive a majority of the money. The initial plan places students in the same building where there are several lower-income senior citizens.

Deventer, Netherlands

Similar programs have been in place around the world for several years. In Deventer, Netherlands, students enjoy rent-free living in exchange for spending a minimum of 30 hours a month with their aging neighbors. Shared activities are simple. Popular events include watching sports and celebrating birthdays. The students are free to follow their own schedule, as long as they don’t become a nuisance for the elderly.

Cleveland, Ohio

Judson Manor, a retirement home in Cleveland, Ohio, has been building partnerships with university art and music departments since 2010. The program’s success has lead to more interest in the retirement community from people of all generations. Students don’t pay any rent. Instead, they use their talents to connect with their elderly companions, performing recitals or leading art therapy classes for the residents. These arrangements help facilitate intergenerational social interaction and are just one-way retirement communities and universities are working together.

University and retirement community partnerships

Retirement homes and universities are recognizing all the different ways they can support each other. There is a growing trend and increasing demand for programs that strengthen these connections. The two organizations can manage their facilities more efficiently, sharing libraries, gyms and medical services. Retirement home residents can work and volunteer at university museums, sporting events and theater performances. This kind of mutually beneficial relationship also makes it easier for residents to become students. Many senior citizens enjoy learning and appreciate easier access to university classes.

Intergenerational relationships between students and senior citizens are blurring the lines between university campuses and retirement facilities. The unconventional living situation is beneficial for both groups of people, young and old. College seniors and senior citizens are enjoying the meaningful interaction from these friendships.