It doesn’t seem like seniors and college kids would make very good neighbors. But in a handful of senior living facilities around the world, some multigenerational homes in Chicago, and apartment complexes everywhere, students and folks old enough to be their grandparents are living side by side more than just peacefully. Both groups are actually benefitting from and enjoying the arrangement.
Take a retirement community in Cleveland, OH, for example. There, students enrolled at the Cleveland Institute of Music live rent-free for the simple price of playing regular recitals and concerts for their older neighbors. At another senior living facility in the Netherlands, university students are required to spend 30 hours a month helping their fellow residents, with only one rule to follow: Don’t be a nuisance!
And in apartment buildings in every city, you’ll find older folks living next-door to menageries of college kids. While not every one of these situations results in an instant friendship, there are more than a few starving students enjoying home-cooked meals and seniors benefitting from built-in dog walkers and computer support because of it.
For the seniors, having the young people around motivates them to get out of their rooms and apartments and interact. Even a low level of interaction can stave off feelings of social isolation, which can have a profoundly positive effect on the seniors’ health, including regulating blood pressure and fighting dementia, along with other physical and mental benefits.
In an article about the Cleveland community in Smithsonian magazine, one resident says: “We cook and sit around and talk about our problems and things that concern us. She’s [her student friend] given me the world of a 25-year-old granddaughter . . .”
For the students, the benefit is far deeper than simply a cost savings. When students live side by side with people who know about history—because they’ve lived through it—and who have racked up decades of successes, failures and stories, it can also be an incomparable learning experience for them.
One of the students from the Netherlands explains that the insight provided by the seniors will help him prevent many mistakes down the road. Being a part of each other’s lives, the young man says, is an experience he’ll carry with him his entire life.
Share how you’d feel about having a college student as a neighbor.