20-80: A new technological way to connect with the older generation
It used to be that our elders were our greatest source of wisdom. Their own life experience became a guide for us to navigate both the challenges and joys in our own lives.
Today, it seems as if we look to the famous and the wealthy, to social media, and to the internet as our highest teachers, instead of listening to the people around us.
For generations now, the elderly population has been rapidly taking up less and less space, forming the outskirts of society instead of its core. In 2050, the number of senior citizens is projected to double in size, with 1.2 million of the world’s elderly population living in Israel. And as the Covid19 pandemic began sweeping across the globe, a parallel pandemic of isolation and loneliness began popping up as well, especially among the elderly. Loneliness is said to be the root cause of numerous mental and physical illnesses that we face today, and sadly, the numbers only rise in regard to the elderly population.
Something had to be done; and it was a group of passionate and valued Israeli pioneers who decided to tackle this problem head on.
Quickly after the Covid19 pandemic began spreading its detrimental consequences throughout Israel, Connections 20-80 was created. This not-for-profit organization began tackling the exponentially increasing loneliness felt among Israel’s senior citizens. On a global level, as new technology began to creep into society, the elderly population slowly fell to the sidelines, becoming almost an “outdated” generation. And the pandemic has only made this problem worse. People can no longer meet in person the way they used to, and it’s been up to our virtual technologies to keep connections alive. Unfortunately, newer technologies are less accessible to the senior citizen populations, making the resulting loneliness hit their community even harder than the rest of us.
But Connections 20-80 has a plan to change this. With the goal of using new technological tools to create meaningful connections between senior citizens and the younger generations, 20-80 has already begun to alleviate the loneliness and isolation felt by the elderly population.
This is done in two ways: young to old and old to young. Together, these two approached to connections create a mutually beneficial relationship between these two communities. Not only is the younger generation able to support the older and more vulnerable of the two, but through this, we are able to gather that elderly wisdom we have begun to forget. We can return to the ways of our old traditions, through using our own modern methods, such as technology. The young are able to offer daily support calls to the nearly 6,000 elderlies already working with 20-80, in addition to giving daily support and aid in routine chores and errands.
However, what is truly remarkable are the ways in which the senior citizen population is able to give back. 20-80 has created the opportunity for them to share their wisdom with us once again. With recurring podcasts between the younger and older generations of Israel, members of the elderly population are able to share their stories with their people. They are able to share their personal life experience and potentially help others. But maybe more importantly, they are also able to be heard. Their voices are given the space they deserve to have. And when we are heard, we belong.
Dalya, age of 89, reflects on her experience with 20-80.
" I called them in the second lockdown, and they sent me a volunteer that did my groceries. I was so thankful, especially because the same volunteer kept on calling me every week and offered his help. we are still in touch today, and it is a big privilege for me"
Additionally, 20-80 created a forum where the younger generation has the opportunity to learn directly from senior citizens in their specific field of expertise and trade. We live among an older generation bursting with knowledge, experience and expertise in specific areas professionally and personally. It is time that this knowledge is shared on a consistent basis.
Today, over 6,000 connections have been made between members of both populations. With 11,000 volunteers from the younger generations eagerly awaiting to help and connect on one side, 5,500 members of the elderly community are just as eager, awaiting those same connections. And the numbers are only rising.
Nir Issachar, co-founder of 20-80 explains,
"We feel that the need for our products just keeps on growing every day. We put a lot of effort into meeting the elders themselves and hearing directly from about their needs and their biggest challenges.
On the other hand, we meet young professionals working and living in major cities ready and wanting to do good in their free time. We are giving them the option to connect to Israel’s elders on a daily basis, with just a couple of clicks in their phone."
Through 20-80, both sides are giving, and both are receiving. Support and guidance are shared by all.
20-80 has given us the opportunity to become one people of Israel again. We all have strengths, and should be sharing our wisdom with our communities. Yet, we all have areas in which we may need the support of others, and that is exactly what creating a community is all about.
And when we are a part of something, we no longer have to feel alone.