Where Heroes Rise: 4 Remarkable Stories of Kids Helping Seniors
With the ongoing challenges of the pandemic, the world remains full of stories of disconnection and isolation. In many cases, our more vulnerable populations, including seniors and youth, have experienced a particularly difficult time, as care facilities were forced to lock down in the early months of the pandemic and students were pulled from the social circles of school and extracurricular activities overnight. However, where there is challenge, there are opportunities for people to become heroes. We found four remarkable stories to remind us that connection is always possible — across distance, across ages, and often, from unexpected sources.
1Connecting Seniors to Vaccines
When COVID-19 vaccines first began to appear in the United States, there was a desperate scramble to book appointments. In the rush to secure an appointment online, seniors were at a distinct disadvantage, as many of them didn’t have the technological savvy to navigate jammed websites and endless automated call systems. Enter Samuel Keusch, a then-seventh grader in Scarsdale, New York, who made it his mission to connect older neighbors with vaccines. Through his website, VaccineHelper, he solicited seniors’ relevant contact information and has helped 3,840 people access vaccines.
At the beginning of the pandemic, many seniors and other individuals at high risk for contracting COVID-19 felt uncomfortable leaving their homes, particularly to frequent public places like grocery stores and pharmacies. Dhruv Pai and Matthew Casertano, two students at Montgomery Blair High School in Maryland, came up with a solution. Together with a small team of fellow teens and college students, they hatched Teens Helping Seniors. The volunteer delivery network quickly spread from its origins in Maryland to 33 chapters in 17 states, with more than 3,500 deliveries. Teens Helping Seniors is composed of teams of volunteers that manage logistics, communications, social media, and of course, deliveries. The work, born from their desire to ensure their own grandparents had access to food and medical supplies, has ensured that other seniors and immune-compromised individuals have a free, contactless system of grocery, medication, and other essential item deliveries.
3Advice That Bridges Generational to One Another
At Cornell University, researchers curious about the advice older generations can offer younger generations have initiated the Cornell Crisis Advice Project. The idea behind the project comes from research findings that those over 70 years old often report higher rates of happiness than younger people and the theory that perhaps their wisdom and life experiences — many have lived through World Wars I and II, the Great Depression, the Jim Crow era, and other times of calamity — can be helpful to other generations. The project solicits advice on surviving and remaining hopeful during times of crisis and publishes the stories online for others to read.
4Lifting Hearts Through Art
In Chicago, a group of public school students concerned for nursing home residents and others in long-term isolation have worked with 37 care facilities to use arts as a means of connection. Students perform virtual concerts, Jeopardy!-style “Name that Tune” games, and have donated coloring books and art supplies so seniors can create collages, while also raising money to purchase iPads so those in residential homes can connect with student buddies. They capture seniors’ stories through a gallery on their website, Lifting Hearts With the Arts. Their work has connected teens and seniors through more than 3,641 one-on-one meetings. Through music, writing, visual art, and technology, they’re inspiring seniors in isolation and making unexpected connections.