Older adults are at an increased risk of lacking company and being socially isolated. Recent studies prove that a lack of social relationships is as strong a risk factor for mortality as are smoking, obesity, or a lack of physical activity. Enter Little Brothers.
Little Brothers is an effort dedicated to spreading awareness and relieving isolation and loneliness in elders, a problem that often goes unseen. Little Brothers is in 7 U.S. cities and 10 countries worldwide. Its mission is carried out by more than one nonprofit organization.
Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly San Francisco facilitates more than 4,000 friendly visits a year. Volunteers are matched with elders in San Francisco, and they form and build a relationship through home visits, outings, or common interests.
We recently met with Andrew Butler, the program manager at Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly San Francisco. He explained that many volunteers form a relationship with an elder, and their stereotypes about older people are quickly broken down.
"A lot of what we do is creating awareness. I think a lot of the information that we share through training or events really inspires people," said Butler. He also suggested that we speak with a member of Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly San Francisco, Andy Morgan, to get a proper feel for the organization.
Andy Morgan is a highly spiritual 86-year-old who loves to read. Originally from Transylvania, Andy came to San Francisco in 1962 and has worked a variety of jobs throughout his life.
However, he stresses that he has never defined himself by what he did for a living. Aside from books and his spirituality, Andy values personal relationships and enjoys company.
Our conversation with Andy revealed why Little Brothers' impact matters so much.
I wanted to ask if you have any main visitors.
Andy Morgan: Yeah! I have one main visitor come every week. Rain or shine, he comes and sees me. He brings me food from Trader Joe's, and he does my laundry.
Wow, that's a sweet deal. Would you share a particular visit that has stuck with you over the years?
There's nothing that stands out; every visit is enjoyable. What we usually do is grab a spiritual book, you know, all those books over there are on spirituality, and we read from it and then we discuss it. I've been on the spiritual path since the 1960s, so if he has any questions, I can try and clarify.
I was wondering what makes you happy.
What makes me happy? Knowing that my within-ness, that which makes me breathe and which makes me exist, is pure joy and pure love. When you do a lot of meditation, something opens up within you, and I just feel, practically all the time, this feeling of love and joy and peace.
Of course no one can maintain that 24/7, but I can always come back. If something goes wrong, I can just remind myself of my true nature.
That's beautiful. Thank you so much for opening your home to us.
My pleasure; it's been a joy having you guys. Could I just read you one very short poem? It says …
Be as a Flower
Truth is very simpleA flower does not try to be beautiful.Its True Nature is Beauty.Just by its Very Being.
In the same way, when you AwakenTo your true nature,You will naturally exude Love,Compassion, Beauty.It is all you.For it is your True Self.
(poem by Robert Adams)
TechSoup is proud to support our member, Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly San Francisco, in its mission to spread awareness about and help elders at risk of loneliness and isolation. There are incredible people like Andy all over the world who are at risk of being forgotten. But they should never be. TechSoup provides technology and services to Little Brothers staff members to help run their nonprofit so that they can focus on fighting the effects of elder isolation.
This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International License.
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