Citymeals volunteer Tracee makes friendly phone calls to her homebound older neighbor.

Tracee and George may seem like polar opposites. George is 99 years old, an Italian American World War II veteran who has lived most of his life on Staten Island. Tracee is a freelance writer from the West Side of Chicago, now living in Brooklyn. "We're from two completely different worlds," she says. But it didn’t take long into their first conversation for them to find common ground.

Their faith is important to them, as are their families. "We both agree that that world needs more people like us," Tracee says with a laugh. "We're a good little team —  George and Tracee!"

She calls George three times a week, usually early in the morning while he’s waiting for his meal delivery. Tracee lets him lead the conversation, which can be a quick chat or a longer talk, depending on how he’s feeling. There is no time limit. They share what’s going on in their lives and talk about sports, mainly baseball. George is a lifelong Mets fan, and Tracee used to work as a reporter for ESPN, so they love to speculate about the team’s prospects.

George still lives alone, though his daughter lives nearby and checks in on him often. "It couldn't be better for me, I tell you," says George. "I've got family taking care of me." While he can no longer go to the store for groceries and cook his own food, George still does his own laundry. His continued independence reminds Tracee a lot of her own grandmother. "My grandmother is whip-smart and has the memory of an elephant," she says.

Tracee’s 96-year-old grandmother used to live on her own until she had a bad fall. Since then, Tracee and her mother have taken turns living with her — six months on and six months off. It’s an unconventional arrangement, but it works for them. As a freelance writer, Tracee’s able to work from anywhere, and she likes spending time in the country, away from her fast-paced life in New York. But she doesn’t know if she’d be able to do it alone. Caregiving is a 24/7 job. "It's emotionally and mentally draining. You need that time off," says Tracee. "Caretaker burnout is a real thing."

I get so much joy out of it. It's a two-way street.

Though it can be tough, Tracee wouldn’t trade that time with her grandmother — or her weekly phone calls with George — for anything. "Our society doesn't respect and revere our elders the way we should," says Tracee. But she finds that they have so much to teach us. "I get so much joy out of it," she says. "It's a two-way street."

"To spend a few minutes with him on the phone, just to check in and see how he’s doing. To allow him to talk about things that matter to him — that's major," says Tracee. "To be listened to. Every human being has a desire to be heard and to know that someone cares about them."