MILWAUKEE — Several Milwaukee senior care facilities are welcoming younger residents as part of a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee program that allows students to teach art in exchange for housing.
Andrew Gray, a 20-year-old theater student, moved into a one-bedroom apartment at independent living facility Luther Manor as part of the university's Student Artists in Residence program.
The Milwaukee facility, which provides hospice care and assisted living services, is paying Gray's room and board as long as he spends time teaching residents art and gets them involved in activities, Wisconsin Public Radio reported.
Gray was among the art and design, theater, dance, music or film students eligible to apply to be placed at one of four senior living facilities for a full school year. Some of the Milwaukee facilities, such as Luther Manor, pay for students' room and board, while others give students housing stipends.
Gray estimates he has saved about $20,000 by participating in the program. The base rate of the room he occupies at Luther Manor is around $2,080 per month.
Gray has been writing a play with resident Rusty Tym, who has organized plays at the facility for the past seven years. Gray and Tym's play will debut in May. Gray also holds workshops that incorporate a variety of art that can be enjoyed by those with limited mobility, including a monthly series that celebrates music from his favorite artists.
"They're so happy just to have things happen," Gray said. "I think it's so easy to be negative and to be nitpicky about things, but there are so many residents who are happy and open to these experiences."
Molly Hassler, the program's coordinator, said students must spend a minimum of five hours a week with residents, which includes facilitating their programs, eating meals with them and participating in other activities.
Gray said he wishes he could devote more of his time to the program.
"It really is fulfilling and there really is something beautiful happening in this program," he said.