Several Western University students are getting the chance to live rent-free at a London retirement home in exchange for their time.

Three upper-year students in the Don Wright Faculty of Music will move in with more than 120 seniors this fall when Oakcrossing Retirement Living opens its doors.

Heather Gingerich, the director of employee and community engagement for People Care, said it's a win-win situation for residents and students.

"You know when you go visit your grandparents and they like to listen to the stories of what you're doing in your everyday life? This is very similar to that. Not to mention the added benefit of the music, the practicing, the skills, the arts and the vibrancy that this will bring to the home," she said.

"In terms of the students, I think our residents are going to be like mentors and friends and support them."

The student live-in program – which was inspired by a model in Cleveland, Ohio – requires students to volunteer 10 to 12 hours per week practicing instrumental music and performing recitals in common areas.

Gingerich, a Western Music alumna, said the program is a first in Canada and will continue into the future.

Western music students

Several Western University students in the Don Wright Faculty of Music are getting the chance to live rent-free at Oakcrossing Retirement Living this fall in exchange for their time. (Hala Ghonaim/CBC)

Financial bonus

Kyle Tang, the president of the Music student's council, said the program will help support students in need of financial help – even though that's not a requirement to sign up.

"When affordability is such a hot button issue, a program like this would allow students to alleviate financial struggle but at the same time benefit in a number of different areas," he said.

Tang, who's among about 500 undergraduate and postgraduate Music students, said it's important for students to seek unique experiences that allow them to integrate their talent into everyday activities.  

"It allows for a lot of different perspectives to be seen," he said.  "When you're at university you tend to form a little bit of a bubble when you are with your peers."

Students will receive three free meals throughout the week, including daily breakfasts. They'll also have the opportunity to continue living in the space beyond the academic year and into the summer months.

The retirement home is still accepting student applications until September when students chosen for the program are expected to move into the existing long term care in home. In October, they'll move into the new home at 1238 Oakcrossing Road.