Retirement home opens doors to music students in need of place to live

When 23-year-old Justine Myers told her friends she would be living in a retirement home while studying oboe at the Cleveland Institute of Music, they assumed she was joking - but it was no joke.

'It's like I have a lot of extra grandparents,' music student says of her older roommates

Music is bringing generations together at Judson Manor, a Cleveland retirement home where young music students reside with seniors. 10:37

When 23-year-old Justine Myers told her friends she would be living in a retirement home while studying at the Cleveland Institute of Music, they assumed she was joking.

But it was no joke.

At Judson Manor, the young serenade the old in exchange for free accommodation in a stately apartment. Three music students live in the retirement community and perform for the residents at least once a month.

"Judson feels like an extension of my family," Myers says. "It's like I have a lot of extra grandparents."

Residents of Judson Manor are treated to monthly concerts from students from the Cleveland Institute of Music. (CBC)
Myers studies the oboe in school, and the two other students living at the manor study violin and piano. Many of Judson Manor's 100 residents have artistic backgrounds, too, or simply just love music.

They are generations apart, but the students and residents couldn't be happier living together.

"The worst thing about being this old is your weakness. I can't describe it, but you can't do very much and it's pretty frustrating at times," says 100-year-old resident Betty Hinchliff. "And hearing this wonderful music, well-performed by promising young people, it's just very exciting. It's almost like a shot of adrenaline."

Justine Myers and Daniel Parvin play music for the Judson Manor residents in exchange for free accommodation while studying. (CBC)
Six years ago, a board member came up with idea to fill Judson Manor with music as a way to deal with a shortage of student housing. It ended up being a cultural experiment in intergenerational living.

"I was a little uneasy and not as optimistic as some," says vice-president John Jones. "I said okay, do I want to be a VP and a dorm RA (resident advisor) at the same time?"

Wild parties weren't Jones' only worry. He was also apprehensive about how students would fit in with residents.

"Are they doing this for the right reason? Do they really have a genuine interest in integrating within our community? We don't want this just to be a free apartment."

Twenty-five-year-old Tiffany Tieu and 79-year-old Laura Berick, residents of Judson Manor, bond over their passion for cooking. (CBC)
The three students living at Judson Manor have developed close bonds with some of the older residents and spent time cooking, painting and chatting with them.

"What's interesting about this place is the mixture of people and reaching out to people," says 91-year-old resident Peggy Kennell. "It's wonderful to have younger people, it makes us feel younger."

Watch The National's story about Judson Manor and its residents in the player at the top of this page, or here.


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