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This student gives piano performances to seniors in exchange for housing at an old age home

As a student-in-residence at the senior living facility, the pianist made many friends who were at least 50 years older than her.

This student gives piano performances to seniors in exchange for housing at an old age home
Cover Image Source: YouTube | @kctv5

Some of the best friendships in life start in the most unexpected ways, especially for college students. For many of them, the residence hall is a place where some long-lasting friendships bloom with fellow students of their age. But, for Beth Christensen, a grad student in Kansas, a senior living home became her abode, where she sparked off everlasting friendships with people 50 to 60 years older than her. As a student-in-residence at Claridge Court senior living in Prairie Village, Christensen, a graduate student at the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) Conservatory, trades live piano performances for housing. 

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Pixabay
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Pixabay

The senior living facility, situated 15 minutes from her campus, became home to Christensen in July 2023, where she would spend a year studying collaborative piano performance at the university. Her residence was part of an "intergenerational programming" partnership established by Claridge Court with UMKC Conservatory, making it the only senior living facility in the region to adopt such collaboration. As for Christensen, the generation gap is of no concern as she has gained many good friends for life at this place. "The people here maybe 50 or 60 years older than me, but that's not essential to who they are as people. I've come to appreciate that even more with the relationships that I've created here," the student stated.


 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Beth Christensen (@beth7642)


 

Having an elderly audience seemed "really fun" to Christensen. While she often performed live piano concerts playing classical music, she also brought vocalists to collaborate with her at times. "As I got more comfortable, I would try new things and play more recent music. Sometimes, people wouldn't like it and they let me know. Others love to see where the future of music is going. It's fun to be able to ask what kind of music people want to hear and work it into my repertoire," Christensen added. But her role as a student-in-residence was more than just performing music. She gladly indulges in the facility's activities, including yoga and chair volleyball and often socializes with the older generation during dinners or at their abodes.



 

"I'm just part of the community and it's awesome," Christensen said. Speaking of this wholesome alliance, Courtney Crappell, the dean of the UMKC Conservatory, stated, "This collaboration demonstrates our ability to offer community-centered learning opportunities to our students as we leverage the power of the arts to positively impact lives." The Claridge Court residents were equally thrilled to have Christensen as their neighbor and to listen to her performances. She considers the residents as her family, which makes her music feel more special. "They really care about me as a person and a musician," she added. 

Claridge Court long-time residents Mary Kay Horner and Charlie Horner paved the way for this special collaboration with the Conservatory. "We would provide room and board and the music student would help us develop a music appreciation program," Charlie Horner told KCTV.  "We have lots of things going on, but to have music that takes you out of your ordinary self, it's really wonderful," Mary Kay Horner added. While the piano student continued to learn a lot from her elderly friends, her interactions and piano performances served to be a heartening experience for the retirement community residents.



 

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