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Newest senior at retirement community brings talent and fresh perspective to neighbors

URBANDALE, IA – This year millennials will surpass baby boomers as the largest living generation in the U.S., but that doesn’t change the growing de...
Haley Jenkins

URBANDALE, IA – This year millennials will surpass baby boomers as the largest living generation in the U.S., but that doesn’t change the growing demand for senior housing for more than 60 million people over the next twenty years. 

With more retirement communities competing for new residents, one facility in Urbandale may have found the key to attracting new tenants while keeping them young at heart.

Lately, it’s been difficult to hear the music over the buzz going around inside the Deerfield retirement community.

“I think there’s a lot of excitement,” Glennis Nunn, who has lived at Deerfield for the last ten years, said.

The fuss is all about the newest senior to move in.

“In fact I think when she walks in everyone is going to say, ‘Oh, come eat with me,” so I hope I get a chance to eat with her once in a while,” Nunn said.

But Nunn shouldn’t expect the new resident for bridge at 10 a.m. on Tuesday and Thursday; that’s when Haley Jenkins has composition class.

“As my friends and family know I’m a bit of an old soul,” Jenkins said.

The 21-year-old Drake University senior is officially the youngest person to ever call Deerfield home, thanks to a newly formed partnership.

“I got an email from Clarence Badilla, the head of the music department at Drake, and he asked upper classmen music majors about this opportunity,” Jenkins said.

The opportunity was unique; play two music performances each week for residents at the retirement community in exchange for free room and board for the next year.

“We’re the first that we know of on Iowa to have this type of relationship between a prestigious university and an exceptional retirement community,” Deerfield executive director, James Robinson said.

As Robinson explained, there’s much more Jenkins offers to her new neighbors than just music.

“That’s the relationships that Haley will build with the residents of Deerfield and that impact of that is immeasurable,” Robinson said.

“It gives you a whole different outlook on life to be with someone young,” Nunn added.

While Jenkins keeps her new neighbors young at heart, they’re also filling a void she’s been living without for most of her life.

“I only knew one of my grandmothers and she was very special to me because of that young relationship with me getting out of preschool, getting to spend time with grandma – but she died when I was really young,” Jenkins said.

“A lot of us already think of her as granddaughter,” Deerfield resident Tom McKenna said. “She’s a lovely young lady and a talented young lady and this relationship is going to be terrific.

Jenkins’ friends are also encouraged to visit, just like they would in a traditional setting.

Deerfield isn’t the first retirement community to invite a young person to live on site. According to Robinson, they got the idea from a similar community in Cleveland, Ohio.