NEW YORK – Anika Kumar, an Indian American high school student from San Francisco, California, gathers up a few of her classmates each week to make some important phone calls to senior citizens in the Santa Clara County.
When she volunteered at an assisted living facility two years ago, Kumar saw how one simple phone call could make a senior citizen’s day.
“What I learned during my time there was a lot of older adults suffer from social isolation, which is when they have very little social interaction, which can lead to loneliness and depression,” Kumar told the Mercury News.
So she started a non-profit organization called Forget Me Not, which is basically a call center in a classroom at Notre Dame High School in San Jose where Kumar and other high school volunteers brainstorm potential conversation topics like movies and current events before they give a call to one of the 40 senior citizens in Santa Clara County who are on the Forget Me Not call list.
“I wasn’t sure if I was going to enjoy the experience, but after one day of volunteering at the assisted living facility, I found that I absolutely love working with the older adult population. The whole purpose of the program was for the older adults,” Kumar told the Mercury News.
Britt Bassoni of the Episcopal Senior Communities, who trains the volunteers at Forget Me Not and supervises their call sessions, told CBS KPIX 5 that “some need reassurance that things are going to be okay, or this will pass. Others just want a conversation around their interests.”
“I think it’s wonderful they don’t forget about us. I only really go outside of my house when I have to go to the store or to the doctor and I get bored at home.” Mary Baldonado, a 78-year-old Sunnyvale resident, told the Mercury News.
A 73-year-old San Jose resident, Aroon Herleker, told the Mercury News that he never misses “a call unless something has come up with my health or the caller is sick or out of town.”
“I like speaking with someone every week. It keeps my spirits up and we have good conversations,” he added saying that he doesn’t tend to leave the house often as he is visually impaired.
Kumar recently graduated from Notre Dame High School as the class valedictorian and she will be attending the University of California, Berkeley in the fall.
However, Kumar would like to expand Forget Me Not so it can make other senior citizen’s days who live in other areas and not just Santa Clara County.
“They have so much to share, so many stories, so much advice and encouragement. It’s really great the relationship you can have with them,” Kumar told CBS KPIX 5.