Intergenerational Programs are Helping People Feel Less Lonely

These matching programs are making a difference.

Feb 28, 2023
Intergenerational Programs are Helping People Feel Less Lonely | These matching programs are making a difference.

When 76-year-old Antoinette-Marie Williams played 17-year-old Emmett Daniels in chess for the first time, she gave Daniels a run for his money. Paired through DOROT, a New York organization which launched in 1976 and translates to “generations” in Hebrew, they are a perfect match. 

 “The first day we played, we were kindred spirits,” Williams told the CVS Health blog Fortune Well. “I was a good opponent for him. I don’t think he expected it.” 

Daniels said, “Our chess games matched perfectly,”Their weekly games have led Daniels and Williams to a nurturing, cross-generational relationship that they both enjoy.

Williams and Daniels’ relationship belies the idea that people of different generations have little in common, according to Fortune Well. Excited to meet and share their lives, Daniels told Williams that he got accepted to college. Williams immediately congratulated him and said that she knew he could do it.

When the Big & Mini program out of Austin, Texas, launched its app, it was banking on seniors — the “bigs” of society — to have enough technical savvy to connect virtually to the “minis,” those youngsters who have grown up in a world where seeing a friend is as easy as making a video call.

The loneliness epidemic
Loneliness has been recognized as a significant social issue for many years, but the classification of loneliness as an epidemic has emerged only in recent years.

In 2018, the UK government appointed a Minister for Loneliness, highlighting the growing concern around the issue. This followed the publication of the 2017 report by the Jo Cox Loneliness Commission, which found that loneliness was a growing social epidemic and called for a national strategy to address the issue.

Similarly, in 2020, the American Psychological Association (APA) released a report which  found that loneliness is a public health crisis in the United States, and that the COVID-19 pandemic hadfurther exacerbated the issue. The report also called for a multi-level approach to address loneliness, including community-based interventions, public policy, and research.

While there is no specific date for when loneliness was classified as an epidemic, the growing concern around the issue has led to increased recognition of the impact of loneliness on individual people and society as a whole.

Fighting loneliness

Fortunately, there are ways to battle loneliness, including the intervention in the lives of isolated seniors by organizations like DOROT and Big & Mini.

These programs strive to create an atmosphere of change and teach overt ways to embrace greater connectivity. They advocate building a support network by reaching out to family and friends, joining a community or social group, or volunteering to connect with like-minded people.

Another way to combat loneliness is to embrace technology to stay connected with loved ones which fosters meaning and purpose through online activities and conversations, according to verywell mind.. Practicing self-care is also encouraged, as is being patient because strong relationships take time and effort to create.

The connection between Williams and Daniels shows that these intergenerational relationships play an important role in reducing loneliness and adding joy to the lives of all the participants, young and old. 

Multigenerational Living Creates Warmth and Companionship
Here’s What Happens When Students Move Into a Nursing Home
Dutch Supermarket Begins Two Initiatives to Help Fight Loneliness

An award-winning poet and author, Miriam is a freelance writer with a passion for telling stories. When she’s not writing, Miriam loves to read, cook, and take long walks.