On a day to day basis, we have the opportunity to create some incredible memories  ~ some of which we will look back on in our old age and smile about. We may even perhaps call our friends in the future and talk about how we stood up for what we believed in and empowering others in our youth. We will have someone to listen or listen to, but for some senior citizens in our retirement community - unfortunately, this does not hold true. They don’t have someone to listen and some of them, can’t even remember all of their past. I know this because I started volunteering at nursing homes at the age of 13. And with the time I spent with these wonderful, seemingly-youthful souls came the realization many of them would rarely have an visitor which lead them right to the brinks of depression. Now, take a moment to consider that there are 17,000 nursing homes in the U.S. That’s 1.6 million patients and of these 1.6 million patients, 33% of them present symptoms of depression while 40% have some level of dementia. That is a lot of isolation and exclusion from the outer world which is why I felt it was imperative something must be done. In the hopes of helping create a movement which will give rise to healthier, happier nursing homes as a result of bringing the intergenerational gap between the senior living community and generation Z (my age group) to an extinction, I started a project I like to call Bonds Between Generations back in 2010. Bonds Between Generations is about pairing up with middle schoolers, high schoolers or any other age group really to organize fun events like talents shows for these wonderful elderly seniors.

    This project is about letting these senior citizens who lack visitors or hope find a portal to escape into for a little while where they can unlock parts of their life that may seem to be slipping away. It is an event where someone with severe Alzheimer's has the chance to open up their heart to someone of my age or younger performing and somehow remember what it was like to be a parent or a child. It is an event where someone -who does not have visitors can receive a hug and feel loved again.

    For example, let me tell you a little bit about a beautiful lady I knew at my very first retirement home, Jane. She was one of those people that you would see and immediately fall in love with. Jane was just a kind, giving and approachable soul. She was one of my very first friends and Jane would call me over by name and we would talk about our lives and our past experiences before going into deep discussions. But pretty soon, she started showing symptoms of early onset dementia and began to struggle. Jane grew frustrated with her inability to remember things and the fact that she did not have many visitors did not help. It was the events that I organized that would help her. She would let herself engage; and if only for a moment, Jane would forget her anxiety and her depression. She would feel a sense of community. That was powerful. A woman who had forgotten how to smile would laugh once again. It would change her!!!!!

    And at the end, the kids and teenagers have the chance to take something away from it too, in the same way that I have. We can learn the importance of listening and how fun it can be to get history lessons first hand. I, personally, have learned humanness; everyone ages. We understand growing old does not mean being any less fun or being different. All of us are aging and not all of us will age in a perfect way. BUT just because I’m aging, have dementia, or because I’m BOUND in a wheelchair doesn’t mean that I’m not human and somehow productive through all of my struggles.

    My project Bonds Between Generations is a reminder to us all that, while these adults are at the end of their life cycles and are out of sight, they should NOT be out of mind. The day that I can empower others to do the same across the country will be the day that there will be a lot more healthier residents of nursing homes. The young will not grow up being afraid and the old will not be ashamed of being old, and provide greater happiness to the larger society.