Teen Forms Non-Profit To Reach Out To Lonely Seniors On The Phone

Jefferson Award Winner Dials Up Rewarding Conversations With Seniors

(KPIX 5) — For many lonely senior citizens, a phone call from a friend can make the difference in their day. This simple gesture is something Bay Area teenager Anika Kumar knows all about.

When Kumar was just 15 years old, she began volunteering at an assisted living facility. She quickly discovered the conversations she had with the older adults living there meant a lot to her, and to them.

So Kumar formed the non-profit Forget Me Not. For the past two years, Kumar has led a small group of  other high school-aged volunteers, who brainstorm potential conversation topics like movies, and current events, then sit down in a classroom at Notre Dame High School in San Jose to make calls to Santa Clara County seniors. The program operates during the school year, and every week volunteers make sure to call every one of the 40 seniors currently on Forget Me Not’s phone list.

“They have so much to share, so many stories, so much advice and encouragement. It’s really great the relationship you can have with them,” explained Kumar.

Britt Bassoni of the Episcopal Senior Communities trains the Forget Me Not volunteers and supervises the call sessions. Bassoni says the outreach helps older adults feel connected.

“Some need reassurance that things are going to be okay, or this will pass. Others just want a conversation around their interests,” explained Bassoni.

Kumar recently graduated from high School as the class valedictorian. She will soon go on to the University of California, Berkeley and other volunteers will take over the program.

But Kumar would like to expand Forget Me Not’s reach to other regions in the future. If other Santa Clara County seniors would like to get connected to Forget Me Not, they can ask for a referral from Senior Center Without Walls and the Silicon Valley Heart Trusts Meals on Wheels. Seniors can also sign up directly through Forget Me Not’s website.

 

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