College students moving into assisted living home for unprecedented research

Posted at 6:26 PM, Aug 29, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-30 10:43:29-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Three Western Michigan University graduate students moved into a Grand Rapids retirement and assisted living community for a research project that's unparalleled nationwide.

“We’re sharing the space over here," said Lori Johnson Monday, standing alongside her new roommate Colette Chapp.

Three first-year occupational therapy WMU students from the Grand Rapids' campus met each other Monday, moving into a dorm experience with nothing like it. They moved into Clark Retirement Community in Grand Rapids for a research partnership with the university.

"I hope they’re very inquisitive, I hope they ask a lot of questions, and I hope that we can have a real discourse," said Charles Lundstrom, a resident of nine months with Clark. "That’s what I’m looking forward to.”

Lundstrom lives among 80 seniors at Clark. A retired attorney, he says he's eager to meet his three new residents, WMU students. They will be living together 19 months with hopes of learning from each other.

“I hope to be able to walk into the hall and be able to know everybody by name, and be able to know a little bit about them," said Corey Youngs, WMU OT student and Clark resident. "Really there’s so much knowledge and experience in this building and I hope to absorb just a fraction of that.”

The longitudinal study will focus on breaking through aging stereotypes, looking into the effects of loneliness, to improve senior care.

“My biggest hope for me would be to find out how I can better help this population in the future," said Colette Chapp, WMU OT student. "This is the population that’s usually overlooked and under-served, so I think if we can find anything to help them from a therapist’s perspective, it’ll be super helpful.”

They will live and learn together, to bridge generational gaps.

“The way that we care for our elderly hopefully will be changed," said Johnson.