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WMU students living in assisted living home as part of social experiment

WMU students living in assisted living home as part of social experiment

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - Many college students are used to living in close spaces with others, but a new Western Michigan University partnership has some students living with those from a whole other generation--in an assisted living home!

Newschannel 3 visited them, to see how their social experiment is going.

A friendly game of Scrabble between assisted living home neighbors.

David Burkholder is a long time resident, while Lori Johnson and Corey Youngs are here as an experiment.

"I think that I'm the first one of my friends that has already signed up for the retirement home," Youngs said.

Western Michigan University is working with Clark on Kellar Lake for this grand social experiment.

In all, three WMU students are living along side the regular residents.

Associate Professor Maureen Mickus says it's all about developing a work force that can understand and address the needs of the elderly.

"I think this provides a real personal opportunity for students to develop empathy," she said.

Youngs says he immediately jumped at the chance for this new perspective.

"When I first came, I had this idea that it as going to be like going to my grandma's house," he said.

But it was harder than expected to make connections.

"It took a long time to built that rapport with them and that one on one interaction," Youngs said.

As for Johnson, who's working on a second career, meal time has become a favorite.

"Everybody has a story to tell about their lives. There's a whole lot of living that went before their arrival here," she said.

And it's helped her find a career path.

"We're not just processing people through as assembly line that we need to be understanding of what each individual is looking for in their care," she said.

The students are a third of the way through their experiment, and already seeing great results--and gaining a few new grandparents in the process.

"I truly enjoy it too. So it's not like I am gifting them with my time. I'm truly learning from them too. And it's cool to get life wisdom from them," Youngs said.

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