Normally, when I see media outlets refer generically to people over 50something generically as “Grandma,” I go into rant mode. But I had to laugh when I read this opening line of a recent story in the New York Post: “Beer pong at Grandma’s?” Maybe it’s because writer Christy Smith-Sloman was dishing out stereotypes of young and old equally as she explained the creative new way New York University (NYU) is tackling the problem of out-of-control student housing costs: by having college kids room with older adults.
It sounds like a premise for an intergenerational sitcom — The Golden Girls meets The Odd Couple meets A Different World. (Maybe this is the twist Norman Lear needs to get his idea for a retirement community comedy on TV?) But it’s actually a serious solution that will save students in the program, called “home stay,” some serious cash.
It sounds like a premise for an intergenerational sitcom — 'Golden Girls' meets 'The Odd Couple' meets 'A Different World.'
“Students who opt in to the ‘home stay’ program would slice their $14,000-per-year housing bill in half,” Smith-Sloman writes. Initially, 10 NYU students — juniors, seniors and grad students — will move into the spare bedrooms when the program rolls out next fall. Their older roomies will get some extra cash as well. At similar programs at schools in Chicago such as DePaul University and Loyola University, the older participants also get help with household chores such as grocery shopping and light housekeeping.
A Student Housing Win-Win Situation
Many experts on America’s aging population speak to the benefits of seeing older adults as a resource rather than a drain on society.
“The future of aging can only be enhanced if we recognize that our success and the national interest depend on connecting generations for good,” wrote Trent Stamp, CEO of The Eisner Foundation, in a post for Next Avenue titled “Intergenerational Programs: Not Just Nice, but Necessary.”
That piece focused on the benefits of pairing preschoolers with older citizens.
In her piece “Age Is an Asset: Let’s Use It,” Donna Butts suggested to Next Avenue readers that we “smash silos that segregate generations and prevent them from contributing to each other’s well-being.”
There are many ways to break down barriers that perpetuate ageist notions and create solutions that are mutually beneficial to young and old. It makes sense that colleges are finding ways to help solve problems by pairing students with their older counterparts — whether they’re interested in discussing arts or politics or just looking for a roommate they could share a meal — and maybe a beer — with.