Ana Maria Cornea / Gavel Media

Meet Someone New With FriendshipWorks

If you are a last-minute planner like me, you may have also been surprised when you finally started browsing clubs to apply for and saw that most applications have been closed for weeks. Many of these clubs are service-based, providing students with opportunities to engage with the community outside of Boston College. Luckily for you, a terrific volunteer-based organization outside of Boston College accepts applications all year round. 

Founded in 1984 ​​through a grant program, FriendshipWorks was originally meant to prevent “unnecessary institutionalization, provide necessary supports, and improve the quality of [elders'] lives.” Improving the quality of life of the elderly population is still a core mission of FriendshipWorks; specifically, the program focuses on an issue that disproportionately affects the elder population: social isolation. Though this crisis was heightened by the pandemic, cultural and economic changes throughout history have left elders especially vulnerable to isolation. In the words of FriendshipWorks, “this is where we come in.”   

FriendshipWorks matches volunteers and isolated elders based on interests, hobbies, availability, and personality in the greater Boston area. With a mission to “reduce social isolation, enhance the quality of life, and preserve the dignity of older adults in Greater Boston,” FrienshipWorks is seeking individuals to dedicate one to two hours a week to forming a bond with an elderly person. One volunteer opportunity currently seeking applications includes Friendly Visiting, in which matches spend an hour per week with one another drinking coffee, going on a walk, chatting, or any other mutually loved activity that allows pairs to get to know one another. Other volunteer opportunities include medical escorts, providing short-term assistance to elders, or visiting an elderly person with your pet. All opportunities can be read about in more detail on the FriendshipWorks website. 

All opportunities that FriendshipWorks provides create the opportunity to form a mutually-beneficial relationship with a person who has similar interests to you. FriendshipWorks reports that volunteers state that they “gained a sense of purpose,” and “felt connected and less lonely” after volunteering with an isolated elder. A volunteer myself, I have certainly felt these impacts. A few months ago, I was matched with a 93-year-old World War II survivor, retired teacher, artist, grandmother, chef, and poetry lover. FriendshipWorks has provided me with a deep relationship that I did not expect to find. 

Importantly, though FriendshipWorks strives to decrease the loneliness of the elder population, it is important to point out how Generation Z reports the highest levels of loneliness. Thus, participating in FrienshipWorks not only gives you the opportunity to reduce others' loneliness, but also your own.  

I am part of the Friendly Visiting program, so once a week, I visit my match at her house for tea and conversation. At first, I stayed for an hour every week, but now that we have gotten to know one another, we usually go over that time. Not only are these visits the highlight of my week, but they are also a good time for reflection, interesting conversation, and developing a relationship. I feel that I can be completely honest with my friend, and I believe FriendshipWorks pairing us based on the fact that we share many shared interests is the reason for this. Despite having many shared interests, our life experiences are completely different. This gives me the chance to learn something new every Sunday I spend with her. 

As I hop on the T to visit my match this Sunday, I wonder what our short hour together today holds. Will we talk about the fifty paintings of flowers she has created from 1980 to today? Maybe we will go on a walk and discuss my experience as a student teacher, which she will tie to her experience as a teacher years ago. Every Sunday contains a new lesson, story, and memory made between my friend and I—and I hope that FriendshipWorks brings this same opportunity to you if you join. 

Crossword puzzle and Wordle expert, lover of White Mountain death by chocolate ice cream, and the best prankster you will ever meet.

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