Connect with a Senior During the Holidays
Hannah Boulton defies the stereotype of the lonely retiree longing for companionship during the holidays. But after two-plus years of a pandemic, even this dynamic former nurse who’s lived on three continents started feeling a little isolated.
Then she met Ally Brooks, a high school senior, through the Sages and Seekers program at the senior center in Duxbury, Massachusetts, in September. The program, modeled on a national nonprofit’s workshop, paired up seven retirees with seven high school seniors. It was such a success – the program was Boulton’s’ idea – that a second one is planned in January for a new crop of seniors.
The 76-year-old Boulton and Brooks bonded immediately over their love of travel. Boulton shared her adventures, having lived in Okinawa during the Vietnam War, where her first husband was stationed, and in Karlsruhe, Germany, where her second husband worked.
And she encouraged Brooks to follow through with a plan to apply to four colleges in England and Scotland, including, coincidentally, one that Boulton’s late husband had attended. “I was so excited for her, and of course I’ll visit her” in college, she said. “I just feel like we’re connected.”
Chris Coakley, who manages the volunteers for the Duxbury senior center, said the Sages and Seekers program fulfilled its goal of easing the isolation she saw was affecting the town’s older residents.
A significant minority of older Americans in various surveys have said they are lonely, and the pandemic only heightened that feeling, which already existed for reasons ranging from hearing loss to struggles with the death of a spouse or a chronic illness.
The pandemic, Coakley said, made the center’s staff realize “how important it was to have connections.”
So consider taking the initiative yourself to reach out to an older family member or neighbor. Invite someone for a meal during the holidays or drop in for a visit.
It takes a little work. But the effort will make a difference.
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