2 college students calling assisted living home

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Students Joe Huberman and Victoria Kozar pose outside their new home, Masonicare at Ashlar Village.
Students Joe Huberman and Victoria Kozar pose outside their new home, Masonicare at Ashlar Village.

Victoria Kozar and Joe Huberman are the two newest assisted living residents at Masonicare at A​shlar Village in Wallingford, CT, having moved in on Tuesday.

They're also the youngest residents at Ashlar Village — by far. Kozar is a fourth-year health sciences (pre-med) major, and Huberman in the last year of a five-year graduate occupational therapy program. Both attend nearby Quinnipiac University and are first participants in the continuing care retirement / life plan community's new Students in Residence program.

“This is something that was born out of an idea that some of our executives had after attending a LeadingAge conference a couple of years ago, where they became aware of some students who had done this in an independent living community elsewhere in the United States,” Margaret Steeves, vice president for marketing at Masonicare, told McKnight's Senior Living. “And we thought, ‘Hmm. Maybe we could do something.' We're big believers in intergenerational programs. We're big believers in partnerships with our local universities and schools, so there were a lot of things that made it right.”

Steeves said she believes Masonicare's program is the first such program in Connecticut (the only state in which Masonicare operates) and one of the few in the country that is focused on assisted living.

To interest students, Masonicare asked Erica Defrancesco, a former Masonicare employee who is an assistant professor of occupational therapy at Quinnipiac, to get the word out to health sciences students at the university. Approximately 25 students attended an informational session about the program, and 17 or 18 of them ultimately applied for consideration.

Applicants were required to write essays about what appealed to them about the program, and they were interviewed by staff and residents. “So it's really been a very inclusive process,” Steeves said.

Kozar and Huberman, from New Milford, CT, and Long Island, NY, respectively, were chosen because “they love seniors. They already have a great deal of passion for this area,” Steeves said, noting that the two are planning careers in which they will work with older adults.

On Tuesday, move-in day for the students, a large banner and balloons greeted them at the community's main entrance, a white board in a common area featured a “welcome” message, and the doors to their individual apartments were decorated with greeting cards, balloons and handmade posters. Residents wore Quinnipiac t-shirts.

But that won't be where the experience ends, Steeves said.

“We're really going to follow them through the whole school year,” she said. “We're going to be checking in with them regularly.”

In addition to writing blogs, Steeves said, Kozar and Huberman are expected to spend at least eight hours a week “fully engaged” with their fellow assisted living residents, although “we've tried not to make it overly structured.” The time, she said, could be spent sharing a meal or an activity such as a game or a walk.

Steeves said the program already seems to be successful, with both students and the older residents excited about the living arrangement.

“This is the first time we've done it,” she said. “Even at this early juncture, I don't think it's premature to say that this could certainly be something that is ongoing. It's a very positive thing.”

See Ashlar Village's Facebook album of move-in day online.

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