Meet the 26-year-old living in a retirement home

(ABC NEWS) -- Tiffany Tieu is a 26-year-old graduate student living in a retirement home.

And she loves it.

Tieu is one of the current residents of the five-year-old program at Judson Manor, part of a network of retirement communities in Cleveland, Ohio. Her closest friend at the home is 80-year-old Laura Berick.

At first, Tiffany was just walking Laura’s dog. But then they got to talking -- about everything -- the way friends do.

"Tiffany told me about a recipe of her mother’s that she wanted to cook, but she didn’t have an oven," Berick told ABC News. "So I said she could use mine. That turned into dinner parties and cooking together. And then clothes and what people are wearing. All the things I’d been removed from."

The program started with students from the Cleveland Institute of Music performing in The Manor’s performance ballroom that has a grand piano, Rob Lucarelli, Director of Communications for Judson said.

"But we also had efficiency apartments that weren’t a good fit for the current market [of retirees]," he told ABC News. "At the same time, the school was looking for alternate housing for students."

Tieu said that she’s now fully integrated into the home that started out as place to perform and sleep. "It was surprisingly easy to become a part of the community," she said. "We have so much in common. People here have had incredible life experiences and I have day-to-day access to 200 of those lives [to draw on]."

Berick said her appreciation of young people has also increased. "Tiffany and the other young people, they light up the room when they walk through. The whole mood changes. The conversation turns to what Tiffany is wearing or the performance coming up. And for the kids, it becomes normal to see someone in a wheelchair, to realize that there’s a person who can talk and communicate and is alive."

"We learn to see each other just as people," Tieu added. But there are some unusual aspects of living with people 60, 70, even 80 years older than her, she said.

"It’s totally silent here on a Friday night."

Both women agreed that it’s the everyday exchanges – the conversations and hellos in the elevators and hallway – that truly make the residents of all ages a community. And that translates to the world outside of Judson Manor.

"A mutual appreciation of music has made all these other things possible," said Tieu. "Just one thing in common can lead to so much more."


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