Seniors and millennials are striking a new chord with a living arrangement that’s proof that age is only a number.

Judson Manor, a retirement community in Cleveland, is giving college students the opportunity to live rent-free through its artist-in-residence program.

Since 2010, about 20 students from the Cleveland Institute of Music, Cleveland Institute of Art and Ursuline College have lived at either Judson Manor or Judson Park.

“You’re in the middle of a symphony,” said Laura Berick, a resident at Judson Manor. “How cool is that?”

Berick has a comfortable seat among friends in Judson Manor’s ballroom. She’s listening to April Sun and Or Re’em, graduate students at the Cleveland Institute of Music, play classical music. They’re not just any performers; they’re Berick’s building mates. The students are living with adults double, even triple, their age.

“I lived in a dorm setting when I was doing my undergrad at Juilliard and that was very different,” said Re’em, who’s in the master’s program at the Cleveland Institute of Music. “Here I get a much stronger sense of community and family.”

Berick said it’s a joy to have young people to connect with on a regular basis.

“We hear about new movies. We see new fashions, and we get to remember what it’s like to have a young person around the house,” Berick said.

A need for more student housing got conversations rolling into action. Students must qualify to live rent-free and agree to give back by lending their talents for special concerts, art projects and field trips for and with their elders.

“We get to see how terrific they (young adults) and how kind and gentle they are with us,” Berick said. “And how accepting they are of us… how accepting we are of them.”

Berick said she’s taught young people how to iron and they’ve even had cooking parties. It’s a merging of friendships and interests.

“Music is just like any other art form, but it’s through the medium of sound and there’s something really incredible and beautiful about that” Sun said. She’s in the doctoral program at the Cleveland Institute of Music and aspires to become a teacher.

The multi-generational living arrangement also allows for an exchange of wisdom.

“The other day I was performing some Bach and a woman came to me and said, ‘I like it, but I wouldn’t perform it this way. It was sort of detached,'” Re’em said. “I’m thinking ‘Oh my goodness, she really knows what she’s talking about.”‘

It’s a unique setup that just works.

“What they have done for me, and perhaps me for them, is we come to each other without any family baggage,” Berick said. “We just come together as friends.

Conversations are underway which may lead to Case Western University students being able to take part in the artist-in-residence program.

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