ROGERS PARK — Joe Ryan left the Bucktown apartment that he shared with four roommates in July for a studio apartment that was not only miles away, but also a living experience that couldn't be more different.
Ryan, 26, moved into a "intergenerational living facility" that is overwhelmingly home to senior citizens in Rogers Park.
He rents the apartment at Nathalie Salmon House at 7320 N. Sheridan Road at a reduced rate in exchange for helping part-time as a live-in resident assistant at the facility.
A full-time social worker at a psychiatric hospital for seniors, Ryan said the idea of moving into the building was in line with much of the type of work he's done in the past.
"It's rewarding beyond just the affordability of it," Ryan said. "You can't quite put a price on the experience of being able to volunteer to help other people while you live in the building."
Marilyn Chambers, 75, the building's longest resident at more than a decade, said she previously lived with family in Rogers Park, but feels more independent among her peers.
"You can move around more freely," Chambers said.
The Nathalie Salmon House is part of Housing Opportunities and Maintenance for the Elderly (H.O.M.E), a nonprofit organization that helps low-income seniors stay independent through affordable housing and assistance, such as meals and cleaning.
Other amenities include workout, community and garden rooms, as well as recreational programming and help with transportation.
The Rogers Park location was opened in 1994 by the parents of Nathalie Salmon, a teenage Rogers Park resident who died after a car accident in the area.
The 54-unit building provides housing to seniors and families and younger, single residents who serve as resident assistants.
Current tenants' ages range from 1-92, with about 41 residents 55 and up, and 21 residents who skew on the younger end.
Marilyn Chambers, 75, and Marijo Payne, 58, said they feel more independent living at Nathalie Salmon House. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]
The first four floors contain 27 private apartments ranging from studios to two-bedrooms for seniors, studios for resident assistants and four three-bedroom units for families with kids.
The Good Life Senior Residences are found on the top floor, where 14 residents ages 2 and older get daily home-cooked meals, help with laundry and other assistance as needed from a team of social work interns and a program coordinator.
The facility is undergoing its first major renovation, including $1 million in upgrades to appliances, floors, heating, cooling and more.
Residents said their living situation at the building has given them a chance to take free trips to museums and organized shopping trips.
It's also helped support Chicagoans down on their luck, like 58-year-old Marijo Payne.
Payne had a stable living situation in a retirement home where she worked, but after taking time off after a surgery, she could no longer afford to stay there.
She moved into a homeless shelter for nearly a year, and her physical and mental health declined.
Payne eventually moved in with one of her daughters, who helped her find the Rogers Park facility.
Now Payne and the friends she's made in her new home take walks to local restaurants, she has her basic needs and amenities taken care of, and has help available when she needs it, she said.
"I do a lot more here as far as going out, and going places and seeing things," Payne said. "They have laundry, cleaning supplies, toiletries. They supply everything ... people are friendly here."
Carolyn Hatchett has lived at Nathalie Salmon House for almost a year. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]
Carolyn Hatchett, 56, moved into the building for different reasons, but she said the experience has been just as meaningful.
She lived Sheridan Road and Morse Avenue for 30 years in a building where tenants mostly kept to themselves.
"I used to walk by here every day, I was so impressed with the building," Hatchett said. "Every time I would come, no managers or anyone would be here. But one day the angels and God opened the door for me. ...[A manager] opened the door and said, 'Come in.'"
Hatchett said the blending of ages helps to strike a balance in the home.
"It works out good, it balances it," she said. "You see different age groups here and it doesn't seem like a senior home or anything like that."
"It's like a very good retirement home, but it's not even just that, because you have all different ages and cultures, it's just like a regular community."
Renovations in the garden room. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]
The Nathalie Salmon House, 7320 N. Sheridan Road. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]