When Young and Old Live Together, They Make Beautiful Music

Think back to college, when many of us lived in a dormitory full of our peers on the brink of life’s horizon. People say the “best years of your life” are in high school and college — days spent being social with fellow youngsters, living the high life under the same roof. But as we grow up and move on, the dormitory becomes merely a fond fog.

Living in a community with people primarily our age won’t happen again until we begin to look at assisted living, nursing homes, or senior living communities. There’s something nice about the fellowship that comes along with that, sort of a return to form from our younger years.

But maybe the ages aren’t so mutually exclusive after all. The New York Times recently ran a piece about a new type of senior living that isn’t really so senior. Music, it seems, bring the old and young together like best friends.

Imagine for a moment that a senior citizen shares a wall with a college student. A long-retired city planner visits his new neighbor, a civil engineering major, to give advice on potential internships. A dance student organizes a jazzercise group to help keep her senior dorm mates active and healthy. You get the idea.

Such an intergenerational living environment may seem like something out of a wacky sitcom. But as the Times reports, in Cleveland at least, it’s a reality.

The Judson Manor Retirement Residence might not sound like much, but it stands in Cleveland’s cultural hub. Among its neighbors are the city’s museums of art and natural history.

Also nearby is the Cleveland Institute of Music, which five years ago found that it had more students than it did housing. As it turns out, Judson Manor had the space the school needed, so the two formed an innovative artist-in-residence program to kill two birds with one stone.

The program houses some of the Music Institute’s graduate students in fully furnished, single-bedroom apartments. In exchange, the students perform regular concerts for — and sometimes with — the elderly residents.

Currently, Judson Manor only has three college students among its residents, but the program has made such an impact on the lives of both the seniors and the students that it’s drawing nationwide attention.

“A lot of us go through such physical ills… to hear these young people and the beauty of their music helps us to bear the burden,” resident Karen Holtkamp, 73, told the Times. She owns a Cleveland-based musical management agency.

But sharing a love and passion for music is just one aspect of this program. The intergenerational living is even more significant. Daniel Parvin, a 25-year-old doctoral candidate and pianist says, “There’s always something to chat about, always something to learn.”

While the program at Judson Manor isn’t a nursing home/frat house hybrid just yet, it is a remarkable representation of the possibilities for the future of senior living.

As we come to understand more about the importance of social and creative engagement in preventing dementia and age-related pathogens, it’s encouraging to know that the world is still working on brand-new models for senior living in the modern age.
If you’d like to talk about innovative options that might be open for you or your loved ones, give our office a call. We’ll see what we can come up with together.