Once a vibrant individual, Pete now spends his days quietly in the corner of the activities room of his nursing home. As someone with few visitors, Pete must rely on short conversations from local volunteers to boost his spirits. Until I began volunteering at an assisted living facility, the idea of elderly social isolation was almost foreign to me. Social isolation is when an individual has such little social interaction that he or she feels extreme loneliness and depression. Isolation can affect anyone, and is a little known public health crisis. Without proper attention to this issue, it can lead to mental health issues, complications from chronic illness, and even death. However, it can be combated simply with human interaction. Through interaction with people like Pete, I learned how prevalent this issue is amongst the aging population.
Three years ago, I founded Forget Me Not to connect my peers to people like Pete in a mutually beneficial way. Forget Me Not is an intergenerational program based in San Jose, CA that partners compassionate teen volunteers with isolated older adults in weekly social phone calls. While the teens provide companionship, the elders provide endless wisdom and support--all to form unwavering intergenerational bonds.
The idea is simple. First, older adults are referred to the program from our partner organizations, or sign up by filling out a simple registration form. Next, teen volunteers are paired with 1-2 registered older adults. Before working, volunteers complete a mandatory training that equips them to handle any challenge they may face over the phone. Then, once a week, at a predetermined time, the volunteers make social phone calls to their respective older adults. The calls are supervised and take place in Forget Me Not-sanctioned high school chapters. Forget Me Not already partners with several regional and national organizations, including Meals on Wheels, Episcopal Senior Communities, and Wish of a Lifetime.
Funded by San Jose, CA (January 2019)