Our Experience Co-Founding Never 2 Old 2 Connect
By: Vanshika Chaddha & Arpitha Kochiyanil
Today’s article features Arpitha Kochiyanil and Vanshika Chaddha, two grade 11 high school students from Mississauga, studying at St. Francis Xavier Secondary School. The article focuses on their experiences co-founding Never 2 Old 2 Connect, a non-profit organization aimed to connect with seniors during the pandemic.
What inspired you to start this initiative?
During the pandemic, we both noticed that while everyone was having a difficult time, seniors in retirement homes were feeling especially neglected with the added rules and restrictions. While we both have different reasons as to why we wanted this club, it is our passion for making a difference in our community that has brought us together and led to the success of Never 2 Old 2 Connect. Through this initiative, we hope to be able to continue the amazing intergenerational interactions shared by individuals and work towards our mission of “Connecting Generations, Connecting Stories”.
What kind of activities do you do, and what sort of reactions do you get from the senior citizens?
We lead a plethora of activities with senior citizens, our most popular ones being seated dancing, bingo nights, arts and crafts, armchair travel, cooking nights, and music nights. We receive amazing responses from the seniors participating in our seated dancing activity. They often thank us for giving them a form of exercise during these hard times, especially during this past winter. We always try to choose songs that they are familiar with for seated dancing. Armchair travel has also been quite a rewarding experience. We essentially compile resources found on the internet to give senior residents the experience of visiting a country of their choice. From providing 360° tours to playing popular songs from that region, we engage our senior residents as much as we can. We often see them striking conversations with one another, or simply enjoying the music we put on by swaying from side to side. Additionally, during the holidays, we have led several Christmas related arts and crafts activities such as DIY ornaments and snowflakes. In fact, the volunteer coordinator revealed that they showcased their senior citizen’s creations on the retirement home’s shared Christmas tree.
We have also recently introduced a new one-on-one conversation program where we pair a highschool student with a senior citizen and allow them to engage in meaningful conversations. It has been a huge success amongst many of the senior homes we work with, and it would not have been possible without our very talented volunteers.
How has it been going so far?
We have received positive feedback from all the retirement homes that we are working with, and are so humbled by this experience. Seeing a smile from each resident’s face always serves as a beacon of light during these unprecedented times. It is truly a rewarding experience to talk to senior citizens and learn from the stories they have to share. Fortunately, we have dedicated volunteers that help us work towards our mission statement “Connecting Stories, Connecting Generations” and would like to give them a big thank you!
What are some challenges that you faced in starting this venture?
During this experience we came across several obstacles, the most prominent one being the newness of our program. Initially, many senior homes were hesitant in participating as this was a new program that had never been introduced before. Several challenges existed such as WiFi issues, lack of appropriate technology, and seniors who are not as proficient in using technology. Fortunately, we overcame all these obstacles with the help of the staff at the senior homes and our hardworking team. Additionally, some of the homes we work with have residents who are not comfortable speaking in English. To accommodate this, we made sure to speak slowly, do exercises to songs in their language, and create virtual travel presentations to their countries. As we continue to work together, we hope that our efforts will be able to spread warmth and happiness in our communities during these unprecedented times.
Is this entirely virtual?
Due to the restrictions that are in place because of the pandemic, we thought it would be in the best interest of our volunteers and senior homes if we were to entirely conduct our activities through virtual means. This has allowed us to connect with many more homes located throughout North America, whether it be all across Canada, to even the United States! With a couple of clicks, our engaging volunteer services are at the fingertips of several senior residents. We conduct all of our events virtually using the platform “Google Meets”. Once the senior home joins our call, we provide engaging events that range anywhere from half an hour to two hours. Seniors and staff can sit back, relax and enjoy the show!
What are the next steps for your club?
We are planning a “virtual pen pal” program in which high school students can virtually write letters to their assigned seniors, and the senior homes can print out the letters and share them amongst the seniors. This allows for a more convenient and realistic pen pal program, and allows us to reach out to senior homes outside of Ontario and even the USA!
Is there anything else you would like our readers to know?
We are always open to include more senior homes in our club so please contact us if you are interested or if you know someone that is interested. You can contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Instagram @never2old2connect.
Interviewed and edited by Bhargavi Venkataraman
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