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Bridging the Gap

Jun/07/2024 / by Suhana Kumar

A junior in high school established an organization for teens and elderly to connect

Since my youth, I have lived among my extended family, whether in India, Thailand, or the US. This upbringing in a close-knit environment has instilled in me a deep appreciation for familial bonds, particularly those with my grandparents. I’ve come to recognize the pivotal role they played in my daily life—driving me to school, accompanying me to social engagements, helping with homework, and much more. 

Despite their advancing age and limited mobility, my grandparents always prioritized my well-being and education, readily offering their assistance and emotional support without hesitation. “Remember, Chiraiyā[little bird], life is a balance of holding on and letting go. Focus on your actions, take care of your health, and let go of unnecessary worries. Everything will fall into place.” Those words have kept me buoyant throughout high school.

In addition to their attentive care, my grandparents have been steadfast sources of wisdom, generously sharing their life experiences and stories. “In the Bhagavad Gita,” Grandma would say, “when Arjuna was nervous about the battlefield of Kurukshetra, Krishna advised him ‘You have the right to perform your duties, but you are not entitled to the fruits of your actions.’” 

In other words, we can control only the process in life, not its outcomes. Few people of younger generations could have provided me with more stabilizing advice during high school. 

I’ve often found myself reciprocating this care by assisting my grandparents with setting up their regularly used electronic devices, teaching them to be online savvy for basic purchases and wary of phishing expeditions, and accompanying them to medical appointments. 

I also work with our local senior center to offer technological assistance to the elderly residents. During one session, I had the privilege of working with an elderly woman named Jess. Her one consistent connection with the outside world was her email box, but it was overflowing with spam and scams.

 Jess became afraid to click on anything, fearing that a bug or “ne’er-do-well” might invade her privacy and bank accounts. Together, we sifted through her emails, deleting unnecessary, specious, and potentially dangerous ones and unsubscribing from numerous unused subscriptions. Jess conveyed her heartfelt gratitude for the support I provided. Jess was jubilant about now being able to access important information and recognize potentially dangerous mail.

Witnessing Jess’s joy and appreciation reaffirmed my belief in the transformative power of simple acts of kindness and cross-generational connection. I understood how my generation of teens possessed the capacity to bring meaning, connection, and positivity to the elderly. I became convinced that, when offered the opportunity to mentor and be mentored by an often-times forgotten population that lives on the precarious edge of isolation, many other young people would happily volunteer to spread the same positivity.

This was only one among hundreds of experiences that inspired me to establish MentorMeGlobal, a platform aimed at connecting teenagers with elderly individuals in need of tech assistance.  

Seniors get a front-row seat to the latest in technology and trends, while our teen volunteers gain invaluable advice and wisdom on social challenges and future careers from their senior buddies. Students and seniors are both volunteers and mentors for each other.  

Senior isolation and loneliness is a global, pervasive problem that will require a lot of empathetic and policy work to eradicate. MentorMeGlobal is just the beginning of making change.

Dear Shirely 

MentorMeGlobal allows volunteers to submit personal questions they need advice on and receive thoughtful answers from senior mentors. Shirley, our anonymous ahead-of-time senior has tackled cliques, jealousy, boyfriend kerfuffles, and handling stress and so much more. Teen volunteers get to learn a little practical life advice from their senior buddies.


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