How living at a CCRC changed my tune

My name is Haley Jenkins. I’m 22 years old and, at present, I have the unique opportunity to live with people who are, on average, four times my age. This fall, I’ll be starting my last semester at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, where I will graduate with a bachelor of music degree. I grew up on a cattle ranch between Broken Bow and Callaway Nebraska but ventured out of state to step outside my comfort zone for my college education. I am currently what some people might call an “Iowa Captive.”

From the time I was a little girl, I loved to sing. My parents to encouraged me to pursue my dreams. That lead me to Drake University, where I knew I would be challenged both academically and musically. I stretched myself to my limits with a full credit hour schedule almost every semester with extensive music history, theory, ear training and rigorous practicing of classical repertoire for 5 straight semesters.

After my fifth semester, I was getting a little “burned out” with the music world I had immersed myself in. I pushed through till the end of the year and decided on one thing: I was going to travel abroad before I graduated from college!  Even though it would be rare for a music major, let alone a senior, to travel abroad, I wasn’t going to let that stop me. I knew it would push me back one semester, but I’d rather do that than take a gap year and possibly rethink my major as a whole. I needed a break from music. Traveling abroad was my solution. I discussed it with my parents, and with their blessing, I booked a flight to Ireland.

Haley Jenkins with fellow resident and accompanist Roslie Shultz.

While abroad I journaled a lot, not only to figure who I was, but to determine what I wanted out of life. The pages of words I poured out made me realized I love to share my talents and help those around me. It brings me such happiness to know I might be making someone else’s day little brighter. I knew I had a talent for music but other gifts of mine are communication and the willingness to be around those who need and crave conversation.

In October 2015, in the middle of my time abroad, I received an email that would be the cause of the most unexpected bend in my life’s path to date. The head of the music department at Drake University described a live-in-musician position opening nearby at Deerfield Retirement Community. Whoever applied would get free room and board in exchange for providing two musical concerts a month, eating dinner  with residents a couple of nights a week and getting to know residents in any way possible. I was intrigued from the get-go. I researched the retirement community, updated my resume, and submitted my application.

Fast forward to the present day. I’m sitting in my apartment before school starts, reflecting on not only the last four amazing years but also on my time at Deerfield. I could have never imagined I’d be where I am today. I’m a live-in musician, entertaining one of the most interesting group of people I’ll ever know. They’ve taught me so much, and what a perfect time for me, a soon-to-be graduate, to get realistic advice from people who have years of life experience to back it up.

So many of my peers are going into music education, where they’ll be surrounded by children or young adults the rest of their lives. I’m so proud of them, but that was never what I wanted to do with my love of music. The more I think about our older generation, the more I see a real need. A need for recognition and attention, one that’s just as important as the needs of our country’s younger generation.  Whether that be with daily activity, such as getting out to the house to enjoy a music concert or being around people their age struggling with issues they can relate to. Older people need the younger generation more than ever, and we need them.

Most of my college career, I was struggling to find a place where I thrived. A place where it was effortless to be me and share my gifts with those around me. I always think to myself, “What’s the purpose of having gifts if they aren’t shared?”

As fall approaches, many Deerfield residents are already asking, “What’s next, Haley?” or “Do you have any plans for after graduation?” My response is always slightly different, but one thing stays the same. The people of Deerfield Retirement Community and what they’ve given me has changed my life forever. I have a direction. I have a purpose. I have a place. My passion can continue to be ignited as long I have the opportunity to spend it with older people who have the utmost kindness and love of life.

It’s difficult for me to fully describe what this partnership between myself and Deerfield has done for me. My heart is filled with such emotion for the amazing bonds I’ve made, the many people I’ve come to know and call family and this incredible jump-start to the rest of my adult life. 

Read more: CCRC resident will sing for board

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