As students across the nation prepare to return to college campuses following a winter break spent with friends and family, one student in Iowa is getting ready to move in with some uncommon housemates.

Haley Jenkins
Thanks to a partnership between Deerfield Retirement Community and the Drake University music department, 21-year-old Haley Jenkins will be spending the spring semester as a resident of the Urbandale retirement community, in return for a little musical entertainment.

"I'll perform twice a month for residents and in return, I get to live here rent-free," said Jenkins, whose meals will also be provided by the senior community. She plans to move in on Jan. 8.

Jenkins is a music major with a vocal emphasis. Her minor is in musical theater, which makes the experience of providing musical entertainment for residents an opportunity to put what she's studied into practice in a unique environment.

Jenkins said being able to hone her performance skills and add a unique component to her resume was perhaps the most enticing part of her decision to move to Deerfield. Her love of older adults and her ability to make others smile through her performances made Jenkins the perfect fit for the community, Deerfield officials said.

Deerfield pursued the relationship in part because of its tie-in with Masterpiece Living, a successful-aging initiative that helps define the community's culture. Deerfield said it is the only senior living community in Iowa to partner with Masterpiece Living, which supports intergenerational life experiences as a way to help individuals enhance their emotional health.

"I've been in senior living more than two decades, and this is one of the more unusual partnerships I've seen," said Deerfield Executive Director James Robinson. "This particular situation provides not just an entertainment value in terms of music, but an opportunity for residents to interact with a bright and talented local student."

Sloan Bentley, president and CEO of Lifespace, which owns and operates Deerfield, says they're always looking for the sorts of partnerships and opportunities that will make its communities stand out.

"This will have a profound impact on the vibrant culture at Deerfield, and the residents are truly excited about the opportunity," she said.