Since 1959, Little Brothers - Friends of the Elderly, Chicago Chapter, has been committed to relieving isolation and loneliness for seniors aging without support from family and friends. Year after year, we see that summer, especially, is a season for making new friendships and connections and deepening others. Our elders take full advantage of the activities we plan to enjoy new experiences and the great weather all while surrounded by friends.
This summer, though, will be different for us all. Like all of us, Chicago seniors eagerly await this season. But unlike many of us, our elder friends won't be able to join the state when we enter into the next phase of reopening - out of an abundance of caution.
We continue to adapt our programs and services to support our elders with friendship and essential resources during this critical time. So we're busy planning a Slice of Summer for our elders - a new program to safely bring the friendship, connection and enjoyment of summer to our elders where they live.
Your gift of any amount will be used to match every elder in our program with friendly volunteers, who will safely, through no-contact delivery, drop off a virtual summer experience - activities, surprises, summer goodies, a vibrant plant or fresh-cut flowers, and a special keepsake. Through phone visits, the volunteer and elder will connect during daily conversation, reminisce on summer memories and make new ones. With the help of our volunteers and donors, we remind our elders they're surrounded by caring friendship, which is more important now than ever before.
Imagine, for a moment, being unable to share a meal, laughter or even just a few words with another person - for days at a time. This is the daily reality for seniors across Chicago who are living without support from family and friends. The pandemic has made it so that elders are faced with more isolation, loneliness - and uncertainty - than ever.
For lonely and isolated men and women 70 years of age and older, Little Brothers fills the role of loved ones. Currently, our volunteers and staff are making 800 phone visits to check in and connect weekly, sending hundreds of cards monthly and making contactless drop offs of groceries, essential supplies, and birthday gifts, cards and treats.
Since 1959, Little Brothers' programs have offered a shortcut to friendship. Seniors who may not have two personal conversations in a month can connect and meet new friends - each other, and Little Brothers' dedicated volunteers and staff. From our weekly Coffee Club, where elders meet to share conversation, coffee, and breakfast, to our vacations at Audrey's House, which give elders the chance to escape the city and everyday routine, every activity is built around opportunities for seniors to experience the warmth of friendship. To protect the safety and health of our entire community, these programs have been suspended while we reach out in other meaningful ways, ensuring our elders have what they need to shelter safely in place while reminding them the support and friendship of their Little Brothers family remains close.
We know loneliness can be as deadly to seniors as obesity or smoking. Numerous studies have shown that elders who are lonely are at greater risk for cognitive decline, depression, and elevated blood pressure. Recent research has shown chronic loneliness even impairs the immune system's ability to fight infections. During the pandemic, we have all come to understand more intimately the innate need for friendship and connection.
Our motto, flowers before bread, reflects our belief that life's sweet pleasures are as essential as life's basic necessities. Spending time in conversation combats loneliness for our elders and reveals the deep meaning of connection for our elders and volunteers alike.
"Without Little Brothers, I don't know what I'd do. You're the only family I have." Connie, LBFE elder
"I'm not having a pity party, and I'm not gonna worry over something I can't change. I know I have Little Brothers to rely on." Benjamin, LBFE elder
"You've introduced me to a friend. And it's just really been wonderful for me… There's times you really want to share something, to say, 'Look at that!' 'Did you read this?' Little Brothers has given me someone to share with, and that makes a difference in my life. I'm so excited for my new friendship!" Marion, LBFE elder
"Little Brothers shows you they really care about you. They make you feel special and wanted, especially if a person feels like they're lacking that from their family or friends." Jessica, LBFE elder
Little Brothers - Friends of the Elderly is a national network of non-profit, volunteer-based organizations committed to relieving isolation and loneliness among the elderly. We offer to people of goodwill the opportunity to join the elderly in friendship and celebration of life.