I am always inspired by the loving intergenerational family of Little Brothers – Friends of the Elderly (LBFE). We are older adults, volunteers, donors and staff, all dedicated to ending elder loneliness. Always. No matter what.
Today, exactly a year since we transitioned to virtual programming, I’m more than inspired. I’m blown away. During the pandemic, the LBFE Family is doing more than surviving. We’re thriving.
I want to take a moment for all of us to breathe and appreciate the wonder of how the LBFE Family has deepened the ways we’re combatting elder loneliness.
Spring 2020 when the reality of COVID-19 struck, we immediately stopped all in-person volunteering and pivoted to Zoom and other virtual programming. Technology for elders? Yes. We received donations of personal tablets similar to laptops and began online trainings. Our older friends, many who live in senior housing and may not have had access to personal computers before, have been thrilled with their new ability to play virtual bingo, enjoy story-telling workshops, poetry classes and simply to see and talk with the friends they’re needing to stay socially distanced from.
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker was the keynote speaker at our re-envisioned online gala – a fun, five-weeks of short virtual episodes you can still watch on the LBFE website. Yo-Yo Ma, Livingston Taylor, the Indigo Girls, and local musical favorites performed. Two comedians spoke.
As Governor Baker said, “There’s tremendous power in the work that’s done by LBFE… But it’s also so impressive to see this organization work so hard to help seniors find their way into the technology of the 21st century.”
We’ve introduced services through Beacon Hill Village and expanded offerings in senior centers in downtown Boston, Dorchester, Jamaica Plain, and Roxbury. We’re partnering with an organization helping folks in Brighton, Brookline, Framingham and Newton.
We were disappointed to cancel the annual LBFE Thanksgiving dinner at the Hyatt Boston Harbor, the highlight of the year for many of our isolated friends, but again we pivoted. We introduced the Holiday Buddies program to ensure that our older friends had people to talk to over the phone and exchange cards and small gifts during the holidays.
“It’s nice to know that everyone hasn’t forgotten about me,” said Alice about Holiday Buddies.
Spanish-speaking volunteers and international university students have connected with older friends less comfortable with English.
Together with Tufts Medical Community Service Learning Program and Better Day Adult Social Day Program in Marlborough, we’re matching physicians-in-training with older adults for intergenerational friendship, fun, and opportunities to understand what it’s like to navigate life – and the pandemic – with dementia.
It’s true. LBFE is not the organization we were before the pandemic. We’re doing more. We’re not yet in every Boston senior living facility, but we’re moving forward. Even now.
COVID-19, I considered writing the LBFE Family to encourage us to find new ways to alleviate elder loneliness during the social distancing that saves lives but can intensify isolation. I also wanted to point out how we can learn from our older friends, many who have survived other difficult times in their lives and still shine. I may still write that piece. But today I want to say thank you for being the inspiring LBFE Family of older adults, volunteers, donors and staff. Thank you for being the best and helping us move forward.
You beautifully prove that our older friends and neighbors are never alone, even during a pandemic. Thank you for being deliverers of joy. Always.