When the world was rocked by the COVID-19 pandemic, our member organizations across Europe and North America did what they’ve been doing for decades – build community to relieve isolation and loneliness among the elderly. Staff and volunteers have always known the importance of this mission, and when the world stayed home we knew what we had to do: innovate new ways to offer companionship and maintain connections.
For Little Brothers-Friends of the Elderly Boston, this has meant bridging the Digital Divide and bringing their intergenerational CitySites program* online.
By Nikki Shults, executive director
” Whether because of lack of interest, access to reliable/affordable internet connectivity, access to devices, or know-how, prior to Spring 2020 many older adults in the community were not online. Our organization quickly pivoted to virtual programming by addressing all of these issues: thanks to a generous donation we were able to distribute tablets with prepaid data plans to our program participants who needed them, and we deployed our student volunteers to host our regular weekly CitySites programs via Zoom.
In the beginning much of their time was spent offering tech help and troubleshooting. As the months passed by and folks became more comfortable with the technology the programs became about so much more. Our virtual CitySites programs became virtual community rooms bringing neighbors back together again, and creating spaces where older and younger people could meet and form friendships. Both older and younger participants would note how surprised they were that such deep bonds could be forged through Zoom and how important that grid of faces had become.
The video below from Good Morning Emerson College’s news takes a look into our virtual CitySites programs and the community that’s been thriving despite closed doors and stay-at-home orders: Video CitySites Program in Boston.
The student reporters did a great job, capturing the great energy that comes out of the virtual meeting groups. “
* In partnership with service-learning and community engagement programs at several Boston colleges and universities, the organization offer weekly intergenerational activities in senior housing, adult day programs, and senior centers.
Photo credit: Good Morning Emerson