Bringing generations together through Zoom
Stratford Girls’ Grammar School Year 9 student Aditi Murthy has recently become an ambassador for the healthcare charity Kissing it Better (KiB), which is dedicated to reconnecting the elderly with other generations.
In this week's blog, Aditi shares her experience of working closely with the older generation and explains the compassion she’s built for the unique people she’s worked with.
Over to Aditi…
When I was tasked with fulfilling the volunteering criteria for my Duke of Edinburgh (DofE)
Bronze Award, I knew I wanted to work with KiB as the crucial support they provide to elderly people keep them uplifted and prevents them from feeling disconnected day-in-day-out.
The charity aims to end the isolation and loneliness facing older people by connecting younger volunteers, such as secondary school and university students, to care home residents and independent older people via Zoom. The virtual sessions allow us to spark conversations and listen as they share stories and memories from the good old days and throughout their fascinating lives. These stories were often very personal, private anecdotes from their life, work, and community which I felt honoured to be able to listen to, ask questions about and learn from.
The charity also provides a framework for young people to showcase their talents, may that be music, art, drama, cookery or simply to share a conversation with someone who needs it. However, when the country went into lockdown, restrictions prevented us from connecting with these residents and elderly people. Physical contact, such as holding the hand of someone you love conveys emotion in ways words cannot, but without these touches, we can develop feelings of neglect and abandonment/ Senior citizens who live alone are especially vulnerable to these feelings.
To combat this issue, the amazing team at KiB inspired us volunteers to plan our own engaging healthcare projects, such as making sensory tools and vintage puzzles, to help trigger memories and support people with Alzheimer's Disease. My favourite experience from the Zoom sessions was with one man, about 70 years of age, who introduced himself as Wilfred Berger or Wilf for short. Wilf was a ballad singer but never managed to make it to Hollywood due to the fluctuating music trends - in the 1960s ballad music was 'in Vogue’, however in the 1970s rock music started gaining momentum and pushed ballad singers out of the scene, including Wilf. During the conversation, Wilf shared his best memories from his music career and even performed an old favourite of his, 'Delilah' by Tom Jones, his voice was still just as outstanding!
One lesson he shared that resonated with me was that you should never be afraid to put yourself out there and follow people up. He reflected that it doesn't matter if you come off as badgering because what's most likely to happen is that eventually, someone will say, 'okay, fine, let's see what you've got'. Wilf’s inspiring story taught me a crucial life lesson that taking initiative is important in any industry.
Hearing these stories allowed me to slowly develop new habits and learn key life lessons such as improving my listening skills and gradually becoming more attentive and focused. Good listening skills are salient qualities to developing good relationships and I believe that if I truly want to help anybody, now or in the future, being a good listener is the first step to achieving this.
In addition to becoming an ambassador of the charity, Aditi has also received a glowing review from her Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) Assessor, Jill Fraser, CEO of KiB, who said,
“Aditi has completed the most outstanding log for the volunteering activities she has completed. It is so good we have asked permission from her and her parents to share some of the information she has given us as a brilliant example of what we are aiming to achieve.
“She has written a wonderful and moving account of a story heard from a family member who grew up in India and having seen her on many of our Zoom sessions, I can confirm that she has contributed in a very sensitive way by asking many questions. She has more than fulfilled the goals that she set out to achieve and her accounts of all the older people she has met and what she has learned from them are exceptional.”
Well done, Aditi!