60% of Americans currently report experiencing painful loneliness. Hope & A Future’s intergenerational approach to living offers a solution. We know that loneliness comes at great cost to society. Loneliness negatively affects mental and physical health in young and old. Lonely children do not learn to their capacity and when left unchecked loneliness affects the neurologic development of children in ways that lead to poor impulse control and behavior problems. Loneliness is also often a driver with addiction behaviors. Gangs and human traffickers target lonely young people. Lonely retirees are known to experience accelerated mental and physical decline. In a recently published Yale School of Medicine article1 highlighting Dr. Vivek Murthy’s work on loneliness, the authors state that, “ humans require social networks that range from intimate to peripheral . . .” The authors further share, “Murthy frames loneliness as a helpful warning sign. Human survival has depended on sharing information and working alongside others within social groups. Yet paradoxically, loneliness can reinforce isolation by triggering hypervigilance and eroding self-image.” Our Therapeutic Interactive Intergenerational Neighborhood helps older adults and young people find genuine roles as mentors, encouragers, loving friends and caring neighbors. Obligating oneself to “each other” is an important part of creating purpose and belonging as well as creating a sense of community. The Yale School of Medicine article shares Dr. Murthy’s thoughts on this obligation to each other, “The way out, said Murthy, is to help others. People can pick up groceries for a neighbor; entertain the children of a parent working at home; or call a friend simply to ask how they’re doing. “When we serve other people,” said Murthy, “we overcome and short-circuit a number of the harmful patterns that we adopt when we are chronically lonely.” Overcoming loneliness is both at the heart of and an expected outcome of Hope & A Future’s new TIIN model.
The next few paragraphs share a beautiful and unexpected story about a connection between generations at Hope & A Future. The connection occurred as a result of an act of kindness. The writer is a friend of a Hope & A Future resident’s daughter. The daughter, who lives out of state, ordered a beautiful charcuterie board to be shared by staff and residents last Christmas and the friend offered to deliver it to our door. This helpful friend shared her experience of delivering the board in the story below. The story shows how her helpful commitment to deliver the board for Kathryn resulted in a lovely experience that gave her a sense of connection and joy that also circled back to Kathryn and her family. Please enjoy this beautiful example of an unexpected intergenerational connection that resulted from a simple offer to deliver a gift.
When I came to deliver the board I was greeted by a very quirky and warm older woman who was singing a Christmas song. I told her I was making a delivery and she asked who it was from and said Thank you! She wanted to share it with me so badly! She invited me in and I was hesitant at first. I was like “Would that be okay?” But something told me to go in. I walked in and everyone was decorating Christmas cookies. There were sounds of baby cries and Christmas music. I said Hello to a woman I would later learn is Ruthie and her son. She said the board looked beautiful and they would enjoy it for their Christmas Eve buffet.
I scanned the room and was in awe of how beautiful it was. How I felt like I had been there before, although I hadn’t. I then noticed your mother, Deborah, sitting at the table in her chair. She was resting at the time but the sun coming from the window hitting her face, and her resting peacefully made me a bit choked up.
I began to cry and felt a little silly. The folks there didn’t know me, but I know your mother and she looks so much like my mom. I told Ruthie I lost my Mother recently and seeing Deborah brought back some memories. I asked respectfully if I could hold her hand and tell her I was there. Ruthie obliged and I held your mother’s hand and told her it was good to see her and I’m happy she’s resting. I said she looks radiant and I have missed her smile. As our conversation became more intimate, Ruthie asked if I would like to spend some time alone with Deborah in her room . . . Ruthie led me to her room and I held Deborah’s hand and told her a story of my Mother’s life and how I wish they could have been friends in real life . . . I told her I’m so happy she raised such amazing daughters whom I’m privileged to know and love. I told her we all love her and whenever she is ready, my Mother would be there to welcome her with open arms. I told her I hope she dances with my Mom and that my Mom loved Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn.
I just want to thank you for allowing me to bring that gift for everyone and I hope you will give me your blessing to have enjoyed that moment with Deborah. I also hope I can go to see her again.
I’m sending you all so much love. I know this isn’t easy.
I’m sobbing, this is so so beautiful!!! THANK YOU!!! I could not be happier to receive this amazing message. I am sending it to Sara and Dad. They will be beyond touched by your love and kindness. What a magical experience. I’m so glad you got to see Hope & A Future, it really is the most incredible place. . . I feel your Mom’s love and wisdom through you and know that is what matters as we mother without our own mother’s fully here with us. They are us, we are them. Feel my big hug. You are so special to me even though we haven’t spent much time together . . .
This meaningful connection is the result of a simple act of kindness. My challenge to you is to reach out to a neighbor in a simple way this week and let us know what happens!
At Hope & A Future we are looking forward to a visit with Kathryn this week and we will enjoy charcuterie together again! I hope the same person delivers it!