Stu­dents take up res­i­dence with se­niors

Pi­o­neer­ing re­search project in U.S.

The Hamilton Spectator - - LIVING - MIKE HOUSE­HOLDER

GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. — Three Western Michi­gan Univer­sity grad­u­ate stu­dents moved into their on­cam­pus apart­ments at the be­gin­ning of the fall se­mes­ter.

The cam­pus on which they are liv­ing, though, is not Western Michi­gan’s. And their neigh­bours are not col­lege stu­dents — at least they have not been for a long time.

Co­lett Chapp, Corey Youngs and Lori John­son are about a third of the way through the 19 months they will spend along­side 80 se­nior cit­i­zens in a Grand Rapids, Michi­gan, re­tire­ment com­mu­nity as part of what is be­lieved to be one of the first such re­search projects of its kind in the U.S.

The three will live at the Clark on Keller Lake fa­cil­ity for their en­tire time in Western’s oc­cu­pa­tional ther­apy grad­u­ate pro­gram. A re­search team will col­lect qual­i­ta­tive data from the stu­dents, the se­nior res­i­dents and their fam­i­lies, as well as Clark staff, as part of the so­cial and com­mu­ni­ca­tion-based re­search project look­ing at the im­pact of iso­la­tion and lone­li­ness, aging and stereo­types of re­tirees by stu­dents and vice versa.

Chapp said the move-in last year was not without some ini­tial un­easi­ness. But the 22-year-old from sub­ur­ban Detroit quickly found a way to con­nect with her much older neigh­bours.

“We went to the meals, but it’s kind of awkward to just sit down with some­body that you don’t know and just start eat­ing with them,” Chapp said. “So, the first time that I felt like I was re­ally re­lat­ing to some­body was at poker.”

Chapp and David Burkholder, an 87-year-old re­tiree, be­came fast friends at the poker ta­ble.

“I like her. She’s a very nice gal,” Burkholder said of Chapp af­ter the pair, along with Youngs, John­son and three other res­i­dents, fin­ished up a card ses­sion.

The ar­chi­tects of the study hope that by the time the stu­dents move out in 2018, the ex­per­i­ment will have led to more ef­fec­tive in­ter­gen­er­a­tional com­mu­ni­ca­tion — some­thing that has been es­tab­lished at a re­tire­ment com­mu­nity in Ohio.

A sim­i­lar pro­gram is un­der­way in that state, where stu­dents from the Cleve­land In­sti­tute of Mu­sic and the Cleve­land In­sti­tute of Art live among res­i­dents of the Jud­son Manor and Jud­son Park fa­cil­i­ties. While the ar­range­ment in Cleve­land isn’t tied to aca­demic re­search, it fea­tures like-minded goals: re­duc­ing the so­cial iso­la­tion of­ten ex­pe­ri­enced by the el­derly and bridg­ing the gap be­tween young and old.

For re­tired art dealer Laura Ber­ick, 81, the gap has been bridged.

“Here I came to Jud­son Manor, where there were young adults. And life sparkled,” Ber­ick said af­ter host­ing vi­o­lin­ist Tif­fany Tieu, 27, for lunch at her apart­ment in­side the his­toric for­mer lux­ury high­rise ho­tel.

Tieu, who re­cently moved out af­ter three years to take a job with the Na­tional Opera of Chile, said she and Ber­ick de­vel­oped “a re­ally spe­cial friend­ship.”

“You do have those op­por­tu­ni­ties to find some­one — a kin­dred spirit, I guess you could say — that’s very un­ex­pected and that wouldn’t hap­pen oth­er­wise,” Tieu said.

TONY DEJAK PHO­TOS, THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Laura Ber­ick, left, a re­tired art dealer, has lunch with Jus­tine My­ers at Ber­ick’s home at Jud­son Manor in Cleve­land.

Res­i­dents watch Nina Sand­berg play vi­o­lin at Jud­son Park. The ar­range­ment is aimed at re­duc­ing the so­cial iso­la­tion of­ten ex­pe­ri­enced by the el­derly and bridg­ing the gap be­tween young and old.

Ilona En­gel Travis, left, and Rix­i­ang “Ricky” Huang play ping-pong.

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