Empty Nesters and College Students – Perfect Empty Nesters and College Students – Perfect RoommatesRoommates?

New York University–one of the country’s most expensive colleges in the heart of one of the county’s most expensive cities–is piloting a program to cut housing costs by placing some students with low-income seniors who have extra room in their apartments. Will empty nesters and college students turn out to be ideal roommates? NYU officials think there are several ways its intergenerational homestay program can benefit everyone.

Everything’s expensive in New York

A typical year at NYU costs $66,000, and room and board account for anywhere from $10,000 to $18,000 of that yearly total. Meanwhile, low-income seniors living nearby in Greenwich Village have to contend with rising costs and healthcare expenses. Under the pilot program, which begins in fall of 2017, students will pay $5,000 per year to bunk in a senior’s spare bedroom. NYU says most of that money will go to the senior hosts. They get extra income, and students cut their housing expenses by half, if not more.

Roommates, not caretakers

NYU has made clear that the program is not an alternative to in-home care for the seniors who participate. Unlike similar programs in Chicago and the Netherlands, college students in the NYU program will not be required to provide care, errands or chores for their hosts. Despite the program’s informal nickname, “Grandma’s spare room,” hosts won’t be required to look after wild or homesick younger roommates, either — only “mature” upperclassmen and graduate students can apply. Instead, planners recommend that participants informally look out for each other and come to their own chore arrangements the way any roommates would.

Expanded life experiences

One of the best things about living in New York is the variety of people, cultures, and ages. For students and seniors who find it dull to spend all day with their age peers, intergenerational housing can add some variety to daily life. College life and empty-nesting can be stressful in their own ways, and having someone with a different life perspective around can make it easier to cope. Of course, planners will carefully screen both the students and the seniors to make sure the assignments are a good fit and safe for everyone involved.

The pilot program will only recruit ten students and ten hosts for the 2017-2018 academic year. If it succeeds, NYU could ramp up the program in future years to serve hundreds of students and neighborhood seniors. The Guardian reports that other Manhattan schools might try the Grandma’s spare room approach, as could schools in other cities where housing costs are expensive. If college tuition and healthcare costs keep rising, the trend of pairing students and seniors to save on housing may just be getting started.

As seniors demand more lifestyle options, new alternatives are taking shape, from planned mixed-age senior housing to assisted living at sea. You can explore more options for living at home or finding a new independent-living community at SeniorAdvisor.com.

Casey Kelly-Barton is an Austin-based freelance writer whose childhood was made awesome by her grandmothers, great-grandmother, great-aunts and -uncles, and their friends.


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