College students move into senior assisted living facility

WINONA, Minn. (WEAU/Gray News) - Young and old are living together at a Minnesota senior center.

Senior Living at Watkins is welcoming Winona State University students to live in their manor after years of positive experiences with volunteers.

For $400 dollars a month, six students get spacious rooms, all of their utilities paid and food provided. They were selected through an application process.

“There is no place that’s off-limits for them to be able to just sit down, relax and study,” Cheryl Krage, the director of assisted living and hospice services, told WEAU. “We tell our students they can invite their study groups here.”

The students are required to volunteer at least 10 hours each month, participating in craft sessions, music lessons and eating meals with residents.

“Now, we have the students that are interested in learning from us and we are learning from them,” said Nancy Neumann, a senior resident at Watkins.

Neumann, 78, has already learned a new skill from one of the students: crocheting.

"The family piece of having connections with a younger generation," Krage said. "You'll hear our residents say 'They keep me young.'"

The students have quickly come to mean a lot to the residents.

"They're like sunshine to us, even when the sun's not shining," Neumann said.

The seniors and students have learned how much they have in common through this experience.

"I've just come to notice that a lot of the challenges that they've had throughout their lives are the same ones that we face. I mean, we're all people," said Laura Jensen, a Winona State graduate student living in the manor.

For Jensen, the 10 volunteer hours fly by each month, many spent just enjoying the company of the residents.

"I love to listen to their stories and they're so willing to share," Jensen said.

The program is already expanding and at capacity for next year, with another 10 students planning to live in the manor.

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