Making friends is easy when you’re 3 years old. But the older we get, the harder it can be to connect and stay connected. Now one California teenager has a solution: a little help from a younger generation.
Anika Kumar has been volunteering with older adults since she was 15. While working in an assisted living facility, Kumar discovered that she loved the bonds she formed with residents.
“They have so much to share, so many stories, so much advice and encouragement,” she told KCBS San Francisco. “It’s really great the relationship you can have with them.”
Kumar knew that the conversations meant a lot to her new friends, too. She decided to take the good thing she’d found and expand it so others could experience the same happiness.
Just a few short years later, her nonprofit organization Forget Me Not is going strong. The model is simple but wonderful: local teenagers spending time on the phone with older adults.
Volunteers undergo training and sit in on weekly brainstorming sessions to come up with conversation topics like current events and the movies. Each volunteer is then paired up with an older participant, and the two talk for 20 or 30 minutes per week.
Britt Bassoni of the Episcopal Senior Communities helps train volunteers and supervises the calls to make sure the seniors are getting the most out of their chats.
“Some need reassurance that things are going to be okay, or that this will pass,” Bassoni said. “Others just want a conversation around their interests.”
Kumar graduated as valedictorian of her school’s 2017 class and is headed to the University of California, Berkeley. She’s handed over leadership of the program to other volunteers, and hopes they’ll be able to expand its geographic reach.
To volunteer or sign up to receive phone calls, visit the Forget Me Not website.