Caregiving is hard work.
At Serenity Engage, we are continuously inspired by the caregiving ecosystem who give so much without expecting anything in return.
One such member of this ecosystem is Eric Peterson, the founder of Seniors4Seniors, a nonprofit organization providing a caregiving connection between high school students and seniors. Seniors4Seniors connects high school students with senior mentors who are residing in senior residential facilities. The seniors residents act as mentors to the students while the students obtain service time needed for high school graduation, with both parties benefiting from this enriching experience.
As an influential figure in senior care, Serenity Engage CEO and founder Katherine Wells has been involved with Eric Peterson and Seniors4Seniors even prior to its inception. Katherine met Eric when he was a care team member for her parents. Impressed with the way Eric managed difficult situations with her father, she and Eric began to talk about the senior care industry, including the challenges and opportunities for new businesses, such as Seniors4Seniors.
As their relationship grew, Eric shared his idea of Seniors4Seniors with Katherine. She immediately supported the idea, and now sits on the Seniors4Seniors board to help him guide the business, along with other heavy-hitters in the senior care industry.
We recently sat down with Eric to learn more about Seniors4Seniors and how Katherine has helped him in his journey.
What inspired you to start Seniors4Seniors?
Since my childhood, I have always sought opportunities to help others, especially those with significant challenges. I was inspired while working as a caregiver in a senior community. That is where Katherine and I first met as I provided care for her parents.
As I was providing care and interacting with the residents I was noticing two things frequently. One was that there were many life stories and experiences of these individuals that needed to be heard and learned for generations to come, and the time to make it happen was very limited. I also noticed that these individuals were missing connections. Not just being around others but connecting with others. They missed the connections which they had as they were employed, with their families, neighbors, and other associations they once had. These connections brought meaning and fulfillment in their lives.
I was also becoming aware that the youth were having similar challenges when it came to loneliness and seeking meaningful connections with others. I decided to act on my observations and developed Seniors4Seniors. Seniors4Seniors engages in the reduction of isolation, loneliness, and depression in our youth and older adults.
In the beginning, I started as an LLC but soon learned that a lot of the care homes I talked to couldn’t afford much, if anything. As our purpose was to reach out to everyone I decided that we would go through the process of becoming a 501(c)(3) non-profit to enable us to expand our services to all those who wished to participate.
From the beginning of my journey, Katherine has been a friend who has provided encouragement and advice, so I didn’t think twice about asking her to be a board member. She has been very helpful for times such as these.
Can you describe what Seniors4Seniors is in your own words?
Seniors4Seniors is the conduit between older adults and youth which brings them together in establishing meaningful relationships with one another. They are paired up based on common interests and, when possible, the career interests of the youth with a retired senior in that field.
How does the program work?
We collect information from the youth and senior adults for the purpose of identifying their interests and commonalities that could assist in building strong connections between the two generations in our program. From there we connect the two generations together as they serve one another, ending the isolation or loneliness the other one or both are experiencing. Doing so they are both uplifted and inspired by the other finding the true joy one receives when he/she’s in the service of another person
What successes have you seen since starting this program? Any stories you can share?
We had half of the youth from a local school, which signed up last year, participate with seniors in Colorado and other locations. Due to the Covid restrictions, we provided our services virtually and over the phone which we can do all around the world.
For example, we had a youth that traveled globally as she was a model and was able to stay connected with her older adult either on the phone or virtually. Also this year, we were able to have our first face-to-face youth and older adult meeting, as at the time the restrictions were lessened. We have a few volunteers that participated last year who are continuing their relationship after the youth graduated high school, which we envisioned, but also occurred naturally as they form relationships and experiences that form organically as they bless each other’s life individually.
What does the future look like forSeniors4Seniors?
Seniors4Seniors embraces everyone, and all walks of life and we desire to bring our services to anyone and everyone who wishes to participate regardless of location. The challenges that Covid taught us are that our only real restrictions for connections are language and time zones. We also desire that those who participate in our program will also learn the value of service, and seek other ways to improve their community and service opportunities while passing that knowledge on to our future generations.
Any advice for someone else looking to start a program like this?
I will say as I have been learning that hard work and determination pay off in small increments, but it’s a positive thing as it is truly the best way to learn along the way. In that same light just as a seed when you are underground feeling through the darkness of uncertainty and learning to be true to your purpose and remember everything that occurs in a process.
I am learning more and more but to embrace and treasure each season, as it may feel like you’re not getting anywhere, but if you are putting in the effort results do come. Some small, some big, some unseen but they do come.