Six College Students Move Into Retirement Home; What Happens Next Will Shock You!

“It was just something very surreal,” Joel Olson, a Winona State freshman, says. “Whenever people ask me, ‘Where are you living off campus?’ and I'm like, ‘In a nursing home,’ and they're like, ‘What?’”

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A college dormitory shortage crossed paths with an abundance of open rooms in an assisted living home and the result is making big news! Six college students from Winona State University in Minnesota are now living side by side with senior citizens as they complete their education and the results will make you get a box of tissues. I love this story. I always thought it would be great to live in a retirement home and have often referred to retirement homes as college dorms for the senior citizens!

The Watkins assisted living home, which is partially a century-old mansion, is just a few blocks from Winona State University. It is not a nursing home, it is a full fledged assisted living environment for the elderly that can reasonably take care of themselves. Meals are provided in a common area, and activities flourish.

“Welcome in,” invites Hanna Rottier as she opens the door to her room. “This is home,” the nursing student from Stevens Point, Wisconsin, says.

This last fall, six college students moved in with the retirees, and the mutual benefit began to transpire. It does not take one long to imagine the great advantages to placing the old and young within such a living arrangement. Older people have wisdom and encouragement to offer. Young people have energy and excitement to offer back. Of course, love, unbridled love offered from both sides is incalculable.

Bible study, crocheting lessons, and free manicures abound!

Cheryl Krage is the assisted living director who came up with the brilliant idea of housing students in the empty rooms available at Winona.

KARE 11 details:

The first student moved in this fall under a program called “Students in Residence.”

Krage saw an opportunity not just for students and seniors to live together, but to share social time and activities.

“I hear residents wondering how the students are doing with their studies. ‘Are you eating enough, are you getting enough fruits and vegetable?’” Krage says.

As the students moved into Watkins at the start of the current school year, Krage encouraged them to share their gifts with their new neighbors.

Thus, on a recent weekday, nursing student Ashley McGaw held a bible study with 89-year-old Allen Thompson.

“It’s a revelation, literally” Thompson said, his bible still open on the table in front of him. “It’s refreshing, it’s a breath of fresh air.”

A few feet away in the parlor, grad student Laura Jensen hosts one of her weekly crocheting sessions.

“They all mother me, they take care of me,” Jensen says of the women hooking yarn and chatting around her.

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“Helps us stay young – ger,” Diane Sheldon says, looking up only briefly from her needlework.

Nancy Neumann sits in the same circle getting pointers from Jensen. “Even though I was never married, they are like my little grandchildren,” Neumann says.

“I didn’t know exactly how we would interact with one another, but it’s really worked out super-well,” she says.

For ten volunteer hours a month, students get a spacious room in a mansion for $400.

What a wonderful gift, from both sides. I had so much fun in college. These senior citizens get a very special connection to that life through these students. These students get an experience college could never teach. These are memories that will be the most cherished as these students get older.

I have spent my entire adult life visiting the elderly at retirement and nursing homes. Often it has been to do some Gospel Singing. There is just something very special about the elderly. Very special.

This is something that seriously needs to be done everywhere! Kudos Cheryl Krage! You rock!

Featured pic credit: Chad Nelson (KARE 11)

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