A retired corporate meeting planner at 69 is offering valuable advice to an anxious high school senior, while a 79-year-old retired teacher aims to comfort a frightened 6-year-old.
Meanwhile, a recent retiree, aged 75, from a business leadership role is diving into the world of AI art to craft delightful cat pictures for a first grader’s joy.
These individuals are part of a growing network of mentors in the United States, brought together by Eldera, an online platform that utilizes AI algorithms to pair adults aged 60 and above with youngsters aged 5-18 for regular video conversations.
Eldera’s co-founder and CEO, Dana Griffin, sees this initiative as a way to move beyond generational stereotypes, fostering a culture where individuals care for one another through direct connections.
But beyond dispelling generational misconceptions, Eldera is addressing a larger issue: loneliness. Recognized as an epidemic by the US Surgeon General, loneliness impacts both younger and older individuals severely. Dr. Vivek Murthy highlighted in an advisory that the health risks from loneliness and isolation are as severe as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
However, Eldera has provided a glimmer of hope since its inception during the pandemic. Griffin reflects on the platform’s unforeseen health benefits for both younger and older participants.
One such pair, Kathleen Zwart, nearly 70, and her mentee Lara Salem, aged 17, share a unique bond. Zwart’s guidance has aided Salem through her taxing senior year, offering perspective and strategies to navigate the stress of college applications and sports commitments.
Their one-on-one interactions have proved invaluable for Salem, offering a different viewpoint from the support received from parents, teachers, and coaches. Zwart’s advice bolstered Salem’s confidence during SATs and job hunting, instilling a belief in herself that led to success.
Drawing from her own experiences and the support she received, Zwart aims to boost Salem’s morale, acknowledging the pressures faced by today’s youth.
Their connection, spanning across Jacksonville to Miami, wouldn’t have happened without Eldera’s matchmaking prowess. Despite the distance, Zwart and Salem have found common ground, exchanging book recommendations and music preferences.
For Zwart, mentoring Salem brings vitality, making her feel youthful, while Salem values the refreshing conversations, treating Zwart like a trusted confidant and a source of wisdom.
Eldera, aiming to revive the “Era of the Elders,” seeks to expand its reach beyond the current active users. Griffin envisions a future where every American child has a mentor, unlocking the wisdom and guidance of older adults at scale.
However, the platform doesn’t solely focus on bridging generational gaps; it addresses pressing issues faced by both young and old. Through Eldera, mentors uncover the challenges confronting today’s youth, providing support amid unprecedented complexities.
Apart from offering connections, Eldera also facilitates intergenerational discussions on topics like loneliness and mental health. The platform’s AI algorithm ensures safety during video interactions, enhancing and safeguarding the human connection.
While Eldera offers free access, a $10 monthly subscription provides additional resources, fostering a supportive community for mentors. Griffin envisions healthcare providers recognizing Eldera’s benefits and covering costs for pediatric and geriatric patients.
Constance Morton Belsi, a 79-year-old retired teacher, encountered a stark moment with her 6-year-old mentee when the child expressed fear of mortality, stemming from societal concerns about school safety and drills prompted by unfortunate events.
Belsi’s encounter exemplifies the issues mentors navigate through children’s perspectives, acknowledging the complexities faced by this generation.
Beyond addressing loneliness and societal challenges, Eldera mentors like Andrew Weinrich and Karen Korman are embracing new experiences. Weinrich explores video games, discovering their educational value, while Korman, a recent retiree, dives into AI art to engage and connect with her mentee.
Their willingness to adapt and learn alongside their mentees reflects Eldera’s vision of creating a nurturing virtual community grounded in human connection and support.