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College students are ditching their dorms for retirement homes


College students are ditching their dorms for retirement homes

WATCH |  Students in Michigan and Ohio are living in retirement communities, looking to help reduce the social isolation often experienced by the elderly.

Graduate students at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan have ditched their dorm rooms for bed space at a nearby retirement home.

It's part of an intergenerational project that grants occupational therapy students the unique opportunity to study the relationships between people of different generations.

Currently, three students are participating in the 19-month program. They moved in back in August of last year.

They're not just my neighbors. They're my friends. They're my family.
Colette Chapp, Western Michigan student

How it works

Following an intense interview process, students are then selected by the university to become a temporary houseguest at the Clark on Keller Lake retirement community.

In addition to making new friends, students get to enjoy the 40-acre campus free of charge.

The students and residents share weekly meals, play games and socialize.

I came to Judson Manor, where there were young adults. And life sparkled.
Laura Berick, Judson Manor Resident

Breaking stereotypes

Programs like the one offered at Western Michigan are aimed at bridging the generational gap. Colette Chapp, one of the three students living at Clark on Keller Lake, told the Associated Press that it took her some time before she became adjusted at her new home.

"It was hard at first, but I think the point that we've already gotten to is just so exciting," she said. Chapp and her peers often play poker with the residents, an activity she said helped to break down the walls.

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Reducing loneliness

In addition to forming newfound relationships, this program helps to reduce the impact of loneliness among elderly residents.

"I came to Judson Manor, where there were young adults. And life sparkled," Laura Berick, a resident at Judson Manor retirement community in Cleveland, Ohio, told the Associated Press.

Tiffany Tieu, a former student at the Cleveland Institute of Music, would spend time with Berick, cooking and catching up.

For me it was something that was an opportunity to use music to be part of a community and to have a really interesting living experience.
Tiffany Tieu, Cleveland Institute of Music alum
Should more programs like this exist?

--The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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