Senior Housing Pilot Inspires Industry Career Path

An experiment in intergenerational senior housing set out to explore the impact of a 20-something living among her 80-something peers. While the result was a great success, the partnership also had an unexpected outcome: driving interest in senior living as a career. 

After completing a semester while living at Deerfield Retirement Community in Urbandale, Iowa, Drake University student Haley Jenkins is staying just a little bit longer. Jenkins, a music major at the university, has been living in the retirement community and providing musical performances for residents in exchange for room and board.

“The time has gone so fast and the relationship has been so good that neither party wanted to see it end,” Deerfield’s Executive Director James Robinson told Senior Housing news. “As the agreement was drawing to a close, we met and said we are both interested in extending the relationship.”


The relationship between Jenkins and the community is one example of the emergence of the intergenerational housing trend and the eagerness of the senior housing industry to increase its reach with millennials. 

The housing situation was originally slated to end after Jenkins completed her Spring semester, but both parties agreed to extend until the end of the Fall semester. She will continue monthly musical performances for residents. Once Jenkins’ semester is complete in December, another Drake student will become part of the program and will live in the community. 

“We are going to work with Haley in the selection process for the next student from Drake as we approach the end of her time,” Robinson said. “It will be a collaboration between Drake, Deerfield and Haley on that decision making process. We will continue to have this relationship until at least 2017, and we don’t see it coming to an end in the immediate future.”  


Extending the current relationship with Jenkins at the community is a tribute to the success of the innovative idea and the mutual benefits it provides for residents, staff members and Jenkins. The experience has even piqued Jenkins’ interest in a career in senior living, according to Robinson. 

“To hear her say that she is interested in a career in senior living, that wasn’t part of our expectation at all,” Robinson said. “To hear her say that is extremely powerful.”

The unique experiment has caught the attention of other senior housing communities in Iowa, some of which have reached out to Robinson for tips on how best to approach a university to establish a relationship. 

“I think it has the ability to change students’ perspective on aging and what senior housing communities provide,” Robinson said. “When they change their perspective, I think they start to consider how their education and degree can apply to senior living and the opportunities there.”

Written by Amy Baxter


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