Moving from a college campus to a senior living campus is not a typical move for a 25-year-old but Beth Christensen is no typical 25-year-old. A classical and jazz pianist pursuing a Master of Music degree in Collaborative Piano Performance at University of Missouri–Kansas City Conservatory (UMKC), she has found an unlikely new home at Claridge Court.
“In Utah where I grew up, I had a lot of older neighbors and I knew my neighbors really well so I got to have a lot of grandparents in my life,” said Christensen. “I’ve always felt really comfortable with older generations and I thought that would make it really easy to settle in and integrate and I was right. It was really comfortable getting to know people here.”
Christensen heard about the position via a partnership with UMKC and Claridge Court and saw it as a great opportunity to connect the community with the larger music scene in Kansas City. She has lived in the community for four months of her one year commitment but has already left her mark, playing tunes for skilled nursing and assisted living residents alike.
“I play old jazz standards or I play some of the classical repertoire I’m working on and then usually the other music that I’m doing is for background music at parties and stuff for the whole community to be at,” said Christensen. “My favorite is when I get to put on full concerts for them. It’s really special to have people that genuinely want to listen because that’s something that’s honestly kind of rare.”
The arrangement has not only given Christensen a permanent audience, it also makes a difference for residents in the facility, says Rob Salierno, executive director of Claridge Court, who was inspired by a similar program he learned about.
“This unique partnership enriches the lives of both our residents and Beth, fostering invaluable intergenerational relationships,” said Salierno. “Her musical gifts, coupled with the opportunities for meaningful interactions, significantly enhance the quality of life for everyone involved.”
In addition to having a permanent audience for her music, Christensen has also found a new cohort of companions. She relishes the kernels of wisdom her new, experienced friends provide and does not see her age as an obstacle to assimilation. After all, it is just a number.
“Every single person that I’ve met, I’ve had something in common and something that we are both excited about. Friendship can be found anywhere but also there’s just a lot of value and enrichment in having those intergenerational relationships where you get to learn from someone who’s had more years than you to figure things out,” said Christensen. “It’s just really cool that age doesn’t create a barrier. It’s actually a really enriching factor in our relationship.”