The current pandemic has caused a host of issues not only with physical health but also mental health. Social distancing, meant to protect the physical well-being of the population, often means social isolation for vulnerable populations such as senior citizens. New Hampton School class of 2020 graduate Davis Bone witnessed the effects of this increased isolation for himself and made efforts to not only help his own grandmother but to bring young graduates like himself in contact with those who are currently affected greatly by decreased socialization—our own grandmothers and grandfathers.
Davis’s inspiration is clear and one that many of us have perhaps struggled with within our own families. We want to connect with our family outside of our homes and find ways to do so responsibly. However, our most vulnerable family members in this pandemic are the older populations, among others. And if these beloved family members are in care facilities or retirement communities, there may be careful restrictions in place to help protect them from the spread of the pandemic. Speaking from his own experience, he saw that his grandmother was not able to see her friends and enjoy the activities she was accustomed to doing for so long. “At home in quarantine ourselves, my family and I did not know what we could do to help her feel better. I thought that there must be other people like my grandmother out there that were going through similar things.”
After spending some time considering a plan of action, Davis created an organization: Grads, Grams, and Grands. After a simple sign up process, this service connects young adults with older adults to help both participants build a connection in a safe environment—and there are many communication options. Once a senior is matched with a young adult, they can begin conversing through letters, emails, video calls, phone calls, and even texting.
Beyond the initial spark of the idea, Davis knew he would need a solid plan and to find a way to make the resource accessible and promotable to a wide range of people. He built the site himself and promotes the service. From talking about it with friends and former classmates to making a guest appearance at New Hampton’s weekly school meetings, Davis seeks to share the benefits of the service opportunity for young and old alike. He also speaks from his own experience in connecting with his grandmother. “I matched myself with my own grandmother. I use Zoom with her every Sunday and I also write her emails and am planning on sending her a letter soon. I think the most rewarding thing about participating is growing or creating a relationship. With my own grandmother, for instance, I can ask her more about herself, her past, and what she finds interesting. Normally, I do not have that opportunity because all of my extended family lives in Canada and we only visit them once every summer, so my time with them is quite limited.”
To move the organization forward, Davis makes a lot of phone calls to nursing homes and assisted care facilities to establish connections. He also speaks to the value of the relationships as they develop. “I believe the connection between a grad [young adult] and a grand is a special one because of how much a student can learn from an older, wiser person and how much a grand’s day or week can be made from talking to a young kid. I think there is so much to learn from our older population. They have been through much different times than we have, and in general, just have different experiences than we do. […] I think that there is so sort of fulfillment, happiness, and special connection that an elderly person or grandparent feels from talking to a person from a different generation. Even though I am only 19, I would say that I have felt this feeling before from the work I have done with kids. I have coached hockey before, and there is something special in working with younger kids that are clearly passionate about playing hockey and helping them not only to better themselves but to share your love of the game with them.”
Know a grad or a grand?
One of the primary challenges in launching a new organization is, of course, getting participants. With the holiday season approaching, and an uncertain season ahead of us, the power of human connection can lift the spirits and hopes in a mutual way. Davis’ ultimate goal is to build the platform up enough to help people, and then formalize it into a non-profit so that even in a post-pandemic world someday, grads and grands can continue to come together and learn commonality and friendship. In the interim, interested parties can reach out directly through the website with questions or to sign-up as a grad or a grand.
Congratulations to Davis ’20 on your efforts in supporting mental health during this pandemic.