year 2, week 39: this week i'm gonna... befriend the elderly.
Ralph found out about Little Brothers by accident when volunteers stopped in to deliver a Thanksgiving meal to one of his neighbors, who happened to have been taken to the hospital the day before. When the volunteers found out that Ralph was spending the day alone, they asked if he would like the meal and some company. That was two years ago, and Ralph is still grateful that he was in the right place at the right time.
Ralph came to Boston when he was 18 years old and has lived there ever since. He never married or had children, and with the death of his parents a decade ago, he no longer has any family. While he does have a few friends scattered around the city, he frequently found himself alone... until he became involved with Little Brothers.
Over the past two years, Ralph has been attending events, enjoying holiday programs, and participating in the telephone reassurance program. For the past year, he has been matched with PJ, a Little Brothers volunteer and Board member. Ralph appreciates a good mystery novel and listening to jazz, and he shares these interests with PJ during their frequent visits and walks through Boston’s South End neighborhood.
After the annual Little Brothers Father’s Day luncheon at Doyle’s Pub, Ralph said, "One step inside Doyle’s and memories washed over me of times spent surrounded by old friends, all enjoying each others company. What more could anyone possibly ask for – a comfortable place on a beautiful day, good friends, music in the background."
The mission of Little Brothers – Friends of the Elderly is to advocate for elders who are isolated and at risk by developing long-term companionships to provide greater well-being and stability, promote independent living, and instill a sense of belonging.
At all of their locations, Little Brothers strives to meet the emotional and physical needs of their elderly friends. For some, isolation comes with growing older. This isolation can be compounded by poverty. In these difficult situations, Little Brothers extends a helping hand. They treat their elderly friends as individuals, offering them the gifts of respect and love by visiting, socializing, and providing programs that combat loneliness and promote independent living, helping them remain in their own homes.
To learn more about Little Brothers, please watch the video below:
Little Brothers runs a program at Lower Mills Apartments outside of Boston that is aimed at boosting spirits among elderly residents. Twice a week, student volunteers show up to call bingo and swap stories. Cynthia Wilkerson, the program manager of Lower Mills, says that having the program in the building makes it seamless for residents to participate.
“The residents appreciate the energy,” she states. “For some of them, it’s the one chance in the week to do something social and get together.” Wilkerson also notes how the residents relish the opportunity to meet the younger people who run the program.
“In my apartment, I don’t do anything else but watch TV and read the Bible,” says Josie Bishop, a Lower Mills resident. “I hate to see the Little Brothers leave. And anytime I see them walking through the door, I can’t help but smile.”
And the program isn't only good for the residents. Imke Heering, 18, is a German exchange student living in Jamaica Plain who has volunteered with the program since she moved to the United States last August.
In the time Heering has spent in Boston, she’s appreciated the relationships formed with residents when calling bingo every week. “It’s been great hearing about [the senior citizens’] lives during the breaks in the bingo game,” she shares. “Coming from an all-white community in Germany, I’ve appreciated the interracial environment in Dorchester. It has allowed me to learn a lot about different cultures.”
“Programs like this help to create micro-communities,” states Nikki Therrien, executive director of the Little Brothers Program in Boston. “Even as people move into their 70s and 80s, we want to make sure that they have networks in which they know others still care about them, in which others wonder how they’re doing.”
Notes for this week:
- October 1st is International Day of Older Persons!
- Our collective givetwig donation will sponsor a year of birthday cards to Little Brothers' elderly friends.
- For more information on Little Brothers, please check out their website.
this week i'm gonna donate to Little Brothers - Friends of the Elderly.