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Seniors Series: Bridging the gap between seniors and high-schoolers

Student-run group alleviates social isolation of seniors during pandemic

With pandemic regulations and health priorities, many Tri-Valley seniors have faced increasing isolation with limited activities and visits from families and friends. In the past year, student-run organization Generation Bridge Foundation has sought to ease these feelings of loneliness by connecting seniors to high school students in the area.

Grace Kennedy with Robert Morocco at an in-person meeting at Waterford at Rossmoor. (Contributed photo)

The group focuses on providing opportunities for social interaction and meaningful connections between teens and seniors, bridging the generational gap during crucial times.

"Senior citizens have many stories to tell and I wanted to share their stories and make these meaningful connections," said Grace Kennedy, San Ramon Valley High student and founder of Generation Bridge Foundation.

Kennedy saw the need for social interaction in the senior community when she saw the effect that the pandemic had on her grandmother.

"It really took a toll on her mental health. She was eager to talk to me but she couldn't," Kennedy said.

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Kennedy's grandmother lives at Waterford at Rossmoor, an assisted living facility and senior home in Walnut Creek. Because of social distancing and visitation restrictions, Kennedy and her family could rarely visit her grandmother.

Kennedy was inspired to help ease the loneliness that many seniors felt during the pandemic. She created Generation Bridge Foundation as a solution to not only combat the isolation faced by seniors but also the generational gap between seniors and teens.

The organization started virtually, coordinating with the activity director of Waterford and setting up meetings through Zoom. In these biweekly meetings, high school students and teens would have one-on-one conversations with the senior residents.

The conversations included storytelling, interviews, playing games together and casual conversations in general. Many of the residents had meaningful experiences that they were willing to share, including first-hand witnessing major historical events and traveling the world.

A volunteer for the organization, Sammy Arasadi from Monte Vista High School, who interviewed one of the residents, expressed how impactful the experience was, saying that she had never done anything like it before.

"It was interesting to hear about all the lifestyles back then and stories they had. Things like how schools have evolved and how local neighborhoods have evolved," Arasadi said, "I definitely had a great time and would do it again."

To many of these student volunteers, being able to connect with the senior community, even online, is especially important because they are directly involved, as opposed to other ways of helping out such as donating money.

The opportunity has also been impactful for seniors who participated.

Senior resident Judy Beckham explained that it would be frustrating when she faced difficulties with using technology. Being able to talk with teens online and navigate through the technology was rewarding.

"This is one opportunity that felt really good, to be able to feel this connection, this bridge, and you felt that you could do at least something," Beckham said. "I know what it's like being a teenager. I know the economic and social barriers that they face."

With gradual reopening and ease of restrictions, Generation Bridge Foundation has also expanded to holding in-person meetings and conversations. Since July, volunteers have physically visited the Waterford facility and talked to the senior residents face-to-face.

The organization also seeks to continue to expand in providing virtual and in-person gatherings between seniors and teens to other retirement homes and assisted living facilities in the area, including ManorCare and Sunrise Senior Living.

Additionally, the organization recently started a fundraiser to fund 10 Apple iPads for senior citizens that may not have the resources or technology. With the iPads, seniors are not only able to participate in the Generation Bridge Foundation meetings but can also virtually connect with family and friends.

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Seniors Series: Bridging the gap between seniors and high-schoolers

Student-run group alleviates social isolation of seniors during pandemic

by Anna Hsu / Pleasanton Weekly

Uploaded: Wed, Aug 18, 2021, 9:42 pm

With pandemic regulations and health priorities, many Tri-Valley seniors have faced increasing isolation with limited activities and visits from families and friends. In the past year, student-run organization Generation Bridge Foundation has sought to ease these feelings of loneliness by connecting seniors to high school students in the area.

The group focuses on providing opportunities for social interaction and meaningful connections between teens and seniors, bridging the generational gap during crucial times.

"Senior citizens have many stories to tell and I wanted to share their stories and make these meaningful connections," said Grace Kennedy, San Ramon Valley High student and founder of Generation Bridge Foundation.

Kennedy saw the need for social interaction in the senior community when she saw the effect that the pandemic had on her grandmother.

"It really took a toll on her mental health. She was eager to talk to me but she couldn't," Kennedy said.

Kennedy's grandmother lives at Waterford at Rossmoor, an assisted living facility and senior home in Walnut Creek. Because of social distancing and visitation restrictions, Kennedy and her family could rarely visit her grandmother.

Kennedy was inspired to help ease the loneliness that many seniors felt during the pandemic. She created Generation Bridge Foundation as a solution to not only combat the isolation faced by seniors but also the generational gap between seniors and teens.

The organization started virtually, coordinating with the activity director of Waterford and setting up meetings through Zoom. In these biweekly meetings, high school students and teens would have one-on-one conversations with the senior residents.

The conversations included storytelling, interviews, playing games together and casual conversations in general. Many of the residents had meaningful experiences that they were willing to share, including first-hand witnessing major historical events and traveling the world.

A volunteer for the organization, Sammy Arasadi from Monte Vista High School, who interviewed one of the residents, expressed how impactful the experience was, saying that she had never done anything like it before.

"It was interesting to hear about all the lifestyles back then and stories they had. Things like how schools have evolved and how local neighborhoods have evolved," Arasadi said, "I definitely had a great time and would do it again."

To many of these student volunteers, being able to connect with the senior community, even online, is especially important because they are directly involved, as opposed to other ways of helping out such as donating money.

The opportunity has also been impactful for seniors who participated.

Senior resident Judy Beckham explained that it would be frustrating when she faced difficulties with using technology. Being able to talk with teens online and navigate through the technology was rewarding.

"This is one opportunity that felt really good, to be able to feel this connection, this bridge, and you felt that you could do at least something," Beckham said. "I know what it's like being a teenager. I know the economic and social barriers that they face."

With gradual reopening and ease of restrictions, Generation Bridge Foundation has also expanded to holding in-person meetings and conversations. Since July, volunteers have physically visited the Waterford facility and talked to the senior residents face-to-face.

The organization also seeks to continue to expand in providing virtual and in-person gatherings between seniors and teens to other retirement homes and assisted living facilities in the area, including ManorCare and Sunrise Senior Living.

Additionally, the organization recently started a fundraiser to fund 10 Apple iPads for senior citizens that may not have the resources or technology. With the iPads, seniors are not only able to participate in the Generation Bridge Foundation meetings but can also virtually connect with family and friends.

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