Scripps News Life


Why these Tulsa college students are living in a retirement community

The students get to live in the senior community for free and, in return, they perform concerts and interact with the residents.
Posted at 1:43 PM, Nov 19, 2023

Two University of Tulsa students in Oklahoma are taking advantage of a unique program that lets them live in a senior community -- but not college seniors. 

"I can't tell you how many times I've heard the phrase 'Isn't it nice to have three grandmas?'" said freshman Shaun Roberts.

Instead of living in a dorm, Roberts and his classmate Chance Jackson live at Montereau, a retirement community in Tulsa. 

"When I go to school during the day, I'm hanging with 18 to 20-year-olds, and then I come home, and everyone is like 40 years older," Roberts said.

"It's a lot of fun!" Jackson echoed.

The immersion program is a partnership between the university’s School of Music and the not-for-profit living center.

The students get to live in the senior community for free and, in return, they perform concerts, interact with the residents and hold open practices throughout the year.

"It's an opportunity to spread the love of music and joy of music," said Jackson.

Sometimes their musical performances at the senior community will include additional students. "We've been playing a lot of jazz music, but we're also going to do a classical concert,” said Jackson. “We'll also have some arrangements of more contemporary tunes at some point, too."

“I think it's pretty cool. They bring a little different jive to the place. It's fun to have the kids around," Montereau resident Nick Kerpon said.

The college students have even inspired collaborations with the residents. For instance, Kerpon and Jackson worked together on a program for Veterans Day. 

"At our Veterans' Day meeting, he's going to play Taps for us, and all the veterans will stand at attention and salute," Kerpon said.

The students were handpicked to be here and jumped at the opportunity. The young men said while this fine-tunes their musical performance skills and saves money, this experience is about so much more.

"I learn something new every day, talking to residents here," Roberts explained.

"Befriending a lot of the residents here, that's been the most significant part of it. That's the part that matters the most, forging that connection," Jackson said.

On top of it all, they've received some great advice. "Make the most of the moment, and not worry as much about the past or the future," Roberts said.

Kerpon laughed and said, "They're just like our grandkids – you almost treat them like our grandkids!"

And these two college students don’t mind that at all. They said having an audience of "grands" cheering them on is music to their ears.

This is the second year of the immersion program. Two female vocalists were part of it last year. 

This story was originally published by Julie Chin at Scripps News Tulsa