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11 Stories From Seniors That Will Inspire You

DoSomething members have swapped 24,856 stories with their older loved ones to fight isolation.

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More than 50% of older Americans (ages 60+) say they feel lonely, and a quarter of older Americans are socially isolated, which can negatively affect their physical and mental health. And, with physical distancing guidelines currently in place due to COVID-19, seniors are even more at risk for these issues

Research shows that encouraging older adults to share their stories benefits the emotional, physical, and mental well-being of older adults, and leads to greater empathy and stronger connection with the listener. Through DoSomething’s Senior Homies campaign, our members are reaching out to their older loved ones to combat isolation -- and they’ve swapped 24,856 stories so far!

If we’ve learned anything through this campaign, it’s that seniors have a whole lot of humor, love, and wisdom to share with all of us. Here are 11 of our favorite senior stories.

(Most of the photos shared below are throwbacks -- meaning they were taken before physical distancing guidelines. Please follow guidelines from the CDC and your local health department for staying safe and healthy.)

1) Wendi, 22

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“He shared with me a very happy memory, this was when he and his widowed mom lived in a two room and a kitchen ‘shotgun house’ with no indoor plumbing and with no books. He thought books were only in schools and libraries. Then, when he was in the third grade, his elementary school had a book fair! He ran home excited! And said ‘Mom! Mom! People can buy books and take them home and keep them forever and never have to return them!’ Somehow, his mother found enough money for him to buy two books. And he has been buying them and reading them ever since.”

2) James, 13

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“Before COVID -19 came to the States, I spent every other weekend with my grandmother and my great grandmother and now I can't really visit at all...We miss her calling my name 100 times, eating popcorn, listening to the blues, movies, and of course take out...I have made it my business to have my mom do drive-bys every couple of days. As I watch the tears flow from both of them, we end up smiling because we made it another day, and we still get to see one another, even if it's at distance.”

3) Leonardo, 18

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“My grandma told me about what it was like back in Mexico. She told me she used to be a street vendor and sold Mexican sweets wherever she could in Michoacan. She told me life was always rough but seeing the smiles on her kids’ faces when she came home always made her day. My mom also joined in and told me how she was always grateful for her mom always working so hard for them. I learned tons about the life back there, and I couldn't be happier to come from those roots!”

4) Jessica, 19

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“My sweet grandma has always looked forward to all her birthdays. Her beautiful smile never fades but on that one day of the year you’ll find her grinning from ear to ear. During this quarantine period we celebrated her birthday a lot smaller than usual...She began telling me about how she would walk for miles back in the day to get a nice birthday suit every year for my father and bake him a little cake to share with all his friends. She never missed one day of celebration when it came to her children. (She had 9 children by the way so that’s a lot of birthdays.)”
Senior Homies

Reach out to an older adult to decrease isolation during COVID-19.

5) Maverick, 18

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“One day while he and his fellow soldiers were marching through the countryside, they came upon a church where one of the walls had been blown down as a casualty of war. Inside this old church was a beautiful grand piano untouched by the explosion that had taken out that wall. Grandpa Bill sat down at this piano and played as the troops were marching by. With victory in the air, I can only imagine how wonderful this must have been for him. Fortunately, my grandpa survived WWII. I am grateful to him and the rest of the ‘Greatest Generation’ who fought and died for the freedom we have today.”

6) Aleem, 18

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“The most touching story that my grandma shared with me was of a time when she and my grandfather were living in poverty...One year, money was low in the household, and it looked like my grandparents would no longer be able to afford [the school my dad and uncle attended]...My grandma took all of her remaining wedding jewelry and sold it. With the money she received, she managed to send her kids to school for another year...My dad and my uncle were able to use that sacrifice to move out of a poverty-stricken region of India to the United States, taking my grandma and grandpa with them. Happy ending!”

7) Janae

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“His uncle got his first car, a '49 Ford Truck, and my grandpa fell in love with it...He learned to drive it and learned all the parts that put it together, inside and out, and when he was seventeen he realized he wanted to do more than pick cotton and mow fields his whole life. [After moving to Michigan from Mobile, Alabama,] he got a call back from Ford and got his dream job putting together new cars. It's amazing to see how his hard work and dream of working at a factory making a working class pay, has transcended into my dreams of being a doctor in just two generations.

8) Jae Hun, 18

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“When she was 5 years old, she lost her father from the Korean War, living her childhood without her father to support the family during one of the most difficult times to live in Korea….However, when Spring arrived, the flowering, such as lilies and lilacs, blooming across the hills made her feel calm for the moment. The scent of the flowers soothed her despite her difficulties in life...By falling in love with plants in general, she started to grow a few of her plants herself. She would take care of them carefully as if they were people. She would talk to them and give them water as needed. She knew almost every plant’s name that grew in Korea.”

9) Troi, 21

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“My Yai (grandmother in Thai) shared the story of how she met and fell in love with my grandfather in Thailand. It was so beautiful to hear how they both learned each other's languages to be able to communicate effectively. It was truly love at first sight! Yai was already an inspirational woman to me. After hearing the story of her becoming fluent in English, defending her Black husband to her family, and moving to a new country to raise three kids, I now know just how phenomenal she is.”

10) Ethan, 22

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“My grandfather was born in France in 1933 and while growing up had to deal will the ramifications of being Jewish, in France, during WWII...The mayor [of a small French village] agreed to help [his family and friends] hide in the village and provided them with a room to sleep in, fake IDs, and gave them ration cards for them to be able to get food, clothing, supplies, etc. My grandfather was even able to attend the local school to continue his education without anyone knowing he or his family were Jews. To this day, my grandfather shares his story in schools, Holocaust museums, Shuls (Synagogue), and universities.”

11) Sahiba

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“My grandfather and I have always shared a passion for music, and he was the first person to get me involved in playing the piano...My nanaji (grandfather) comes from a long line of musicians, and for his family, music is a uniting force that everyone could share. With his three siblings, Nanaji would compose music and play it in his family's shop in Dehradun, India, and they would entertain the people of their village...I learnt what it meant to truly be a musician and how the musician in me stems from my family and country's deep history in music!”
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