College Senior Calls Retirement Community Home This Semester

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URBANDALE, Iowa — Most college students live in a dormitory or apartment, but one Drake University senior has a unique place to call home for her final semester.

When you meet Haley Jenkins’ new neighbors, you can tell these seniors aren’t in college.

The 21-year-old lives in a place where the average age is 82 — Deerfield Retirement Community.

“In ten and a half years, we’ve had lots of excitement at Deerfield, but I think this tops it,” said resident Glenis Nunn.

“It’s just been a touch of spring when you see her walking,” said resident Bobbie Kahn.

The Vocal Performance Major at Drake University moved into the Urbandale retirement community this semester. Deerfield Retirement Community Executive Director James Robinson said the experience is unique.

“There is no other community in the Midwest that we know of that has this type of relationship with a university. There are pioneers that have done this and we’re learning from those pioneers,” Robinson said.

Jenkins performs for the residents two times a month. In exchange for her singing, she gets free room and board. “I love the concept of living with the residents and singing for them and not just being the entertainer, and not just being the youth of their residency,” said Jenkins.

And residents agree.

“I think it’s fantastic. Almost like having our children come home from college, but our children never sang that well,” said Cleo Murphy.

Jenkins learned new music for her new audience.

“I got an oldies book, and a jazz book, a show tunes book and a big band book,” she said.

By the sound of it, Jenkins’ stay is a lesson for people of all ages.

“This is important for us. We want to break down intergenerational barriers, and Haley has helped us do that. The same hopes, dreams, ambitions she has are the same hopes and dreams residents at Deerfield have,” Robinson said.

“It’s wonderful to have an interaction with another generation and for them to kind of see us as a little more viable than we may appear,” Kahn said.

Haley will live at Deerfield for the rest of this semester, but Robinson said he hopes to continue the partnership with more students in the future.


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