Friendly visiting volunteers can help to reduce social isolation in later life while playing games, going on walks, singing, painting, reading, and — of course — conversing over coffee. In this survey, young adults were asked about their experiences as friendly visitors to older adults, providing companionship and conversation over regular visits. Social and meaningful, not clinical. The volunteers receive an abundance of benefits in return, playing an essential part in an affirming, intergenerational feedback loop.
So, how have younger people benefited from their experiences? Let’s hear it from them.
(To read about motivations that young adults have to spend time with older adults, read our research brief here.)
1. Volunteers gained new relationships, community, and wisdom
- More than two in five (44.2%) volunteers reported that they gained new friends from different generations and a broader sense of community. They value the ability to connect with “kind people” and to “engage with those different from me.” “ I get to share experiences with people that I normally would never have the privilege to interact with because of their age.”
- Three in ten (30.2%) described the wisdom they have acquired from older people and treasured the chance to “see the world through a new set of eyes.”“ I am able to develop meaningful and lasting relationships with the families I work with. Their stories inspire me, and their values often calibrate my own.”
2. They feel a sense of meaning and purpose from helping others
Two in five (39.5%) reported gaining benefits that are hard to decipher yet intrinsically important, describing altruistic motivations and a greater sense of meaning and purpose. Some might call these soft skills—but they are so much more than that.
“ I value being present with someone who is much less autonomous than myself at this juncture, but who has surely been present for countless others in the past. There is value, sometimes, in simply not being alone.”
“ The work is very rewarding and by the end of the day makes me very happy.”
3. They get a change of pace and flexibility
- Volunteers described a host of other benefits, too. One in nine (11.6%) valued the opportunity to leave their college campuses
- Others described the experience as relaxing and a way to de-stress, with others noting how much they appreciated the flexibility in scheduling visits
Results are based on 43 online responses to a Mon Ami survey of younger adult friendly visitors in May 2019.