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Western music students receive free accommodation in retirement home in exchange for performances

Credit: THINKSTOCK/PABLO_K

Students from the Don Wright Faculty of Music at Western University are living a unique experience as they live rent free with seniors of the Oakcrossing Retirement Living, in exchange to volunteer and play music for the residents.


Lauren Dietrich | Interrobang | News | December 4th, 2017




With peopleCare Inc.’s vision being, “to change the world of senior living”, they have adopted a new program that will do exactly that. A brand new facility opened in London that allows Western University music students to receive free accommodations in exchange for musical performances.

Oakcrossing Retirement Living is the first retirement facility for peopleCare Inc. This family owned business provides long-term care facilities to a number of communities. With their great reputation in all communities that they serve, peopleCare Inc. was able to open a retirement home in London and they are hoping to implement more as they move forward.

Heather Gingerich is the director of employee and community engagement at peopleCare Inc. She graduated from the Don Wright Faculty of Music at Western University and is excited about this program being the first of its kind in Canada.

“We were very familiar with the benefits of intergenerational programming for residents and students alike. We have always been forward thinking in terms of programming that will enhance the quality of life for our residents,” Gingerich said.

Not only is this program advantageous to the seniors, the students also receive a number of benefits from the arrangement.

“The obvious benefit is free room and board, a beautiful new residence to live in, and its location is a ten-minute bike ride from the school,” Gingerich added.

The three students that are involved in the program are also aware of how great this opportunity is and are hoping to live in the home for the remainder of their education.

Shirleen Xu is in her third year of Western’s bachelor of music with honours in voice performance program and had positives to share about the partnership.

“The most important asset for a performer is having an audience that is willing to listen,” Xu said.

Ivy Manoucherie, another student involved, also discussed the benefits of having seniors as an audience.

“This is a unique environment that allows me a lot of experience that is not typical of Western music students. There is an opportunity for a more authentic interaction between the performer and the audience” Manoucherie said.

Manoucherie also explained how this type of audience is more participatory. Even though she is the one making the music, it is exciting because everyone is involved.

The students are required to volunteer for 12 hours a week. However, not all of this has to be performing.

“We have scheduled music appreciation type classes, we are hoping for enough interest to run a choir in the home, and there are plenty of opportunities for impromptu activities and performances” Manoucherie said.

The students are able to practice their skills as musicians and develop long term relationships with the residents and each other.

Since this is such a unique and beneficial experience, there was high competition in the application process of the program. Gingerich discussed how the key to success is making sure that you are careful with your selection of who is moving into your homes.

“We went through a multistep interview process. The three students that are living in the residence so far are great. They are mature leaders who are engaged with the residents and are excited about the program” Gingerich said.

Although they are only starting with three students and limited the application pool to Western, they are planning on expanding the program in the future if all goes well.

“On a go forward, we would include Fanshawe and invite these students to apply. I think there is lots of opportunity for the program to develop, grow, and evolve” Gingerich added.

To find out more information about peopleCare, visit peoplecare.ca.
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