Ian Aizman realized that as people began socially distancing themselves from others, one very vulnerable population was at risk of losing all interaction: Seniors in nursing homes.
“I had just been thinking about it all the time,” said Aizman. “We can’t just abandon our elders. They’re already an at-risk population, and then coupled with an increase in anxiety and loneliness, and as we know, loneliness compromises the immune system. It’s an added layer of risk.
“I just woke up and said I’m going to do something.”
That “something” was to start Virtual Visit Friend, where volunteers can be connected to by Zoom video call or FaceTime to seniors who are looking for interaction in this time of social isolation. A week after he put out the Google Form, he’s had 156 volunteers sign up, eight nursing homes that are on board, with another seven that may up soon.
“A lot of nursing homes are starting to implement the technology – an iPad or some shared device,” Aizman said. “Our world right now is facing a crisis that is specifically hard for our elders.”
Aizman said that his plan came together quickly – about a week from setting up the form to completing the first call last week. He got a big push of sign ups from his South Minneapolis NextDoor group. That’s also where he met 18-year-old college freshman Samantha Martin, who is helping with administration and getting some crucial infrastructure set up – including Facebook, Instagram and a website.
“I’m hoping to create a whole new level of volunteerism,” he said.
For Aizman, the timing is perfect to start this up. He does landscaping work and snow removal, so he’s in-between seasons to really concentrate on getting the effort up and running. And he never had any doubt that it wouldn’t work.
“I’m always an optimist, and when you put an in effort to do something good it’s just going to work,” he said. “But I was astounded at the response and the way it all came together.