The Citymeals Blog

Food for Though
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Friendship Across Generations

I am continually amazed at the relationships forged through our Friendly Visiting program that connects volunteers and isolated, homebound New Yorkers. Many unique friendships have been formed that enable people to transcend boundaries of age, race and background to find commonality and appreciation amongst each other. Kumiko and Agatha are just one wonderful example.

Kumiko is a school teacher in Brooklyn, who has been visiting her 94-year-old neighbor, Agatha for over five years as a Citymeals volunteer. Agatha lost her vision and almost never leaves home these days. But Kumiko, who lives just a few blocks away, brings the outside world to her – updating Agatha on activities around the neighborhood, and telling her what church is being renovated and what store is closing.

Like Agatha, the majority of our meal recipients live alone. Research has proven how social isolation and loneliness have a profoundly negative effect on health. And Citymeals’ Friendly Visiting program {link} was established over a decade ago to meet this need for companionship among our meal recipients. Volunteers are screened and trained before being matched with an older person with whom they share a common interest.

During their visits, Kumiko and Agatha often listen to the news together and talk about politics. “Agatha has so many interesting perspectives. Sometime she surprises herself with what she can recall or what she has to say about something,” Kumiko reflects. “That’s something she gives me.”

Last year Citymeals paired more than 400 volunteers with their homebound elderly neighbors for weekly visits. And thanks to our public-private partnership with the Department for the Aging, Citymeals is growing this successful program. Under the auspices of ThriveNYC, we expanded Friendly Visiting to all five boroughs and an additional 260 older New Yorkers are now matched with volunteers.

“Older people need to feel recognized and be connected in a social way,” Kumiko notes. “Quality of life is so much more than medical care, nutrition and maintaining a household. It is important to feel like a vital part of the community.”

A weekly visit between two people can deepen into something quite profound, even when they are separated by decades of lived experience. Reflecting on how much their relationship has meant to her, Agatha is very direct about Kumiko’s importance in her life. “Without her, I’d be lost.”

Food For Thought