Ella Fasciano: Helping the elderly beat isolation
Hi! It’s me, Spiffy the interplanetary journalist reporting from Planet Earth with the latest scoop on entrepreneurs making a difference in healthcare for all of us around the world! Today’s rockstar is Ella Fasciano (she/her)!
Spiffy: Nice to meet you, Ella! What challenge are you addressing?
Ella: Likewise, Spiffy! I believe amplifying diverse human stories is the way to create a more connected and understanding world. Generations in Touch is rooted in this belief. Generations In Touch is a community based program that primarily aims to set up a system to connect community members and isolated elders through weekly phone calls. This program aims to help connect our community while also amplifying elders voices and helping fight the mental and physical effects isolation can have on seniors. Elders who volunteer for this program will be connected with trained volunteers from the community for phone calls. These calls will be at least weekly, lasting for at least 30 minutes but with room for the calls to go on longer. While the main idea is to create conversations, with training and conversation starters provided for the call, the secondary idea is that the elders could opt-in to record the stories that they tell so that they can share their perspectives and pass on their insights and ideas to the rest of the community. Especially now during the pandemic, elder isolation is hurting the mental and physical health of elders, but even without a pandemic elders are still often isolated. Humans are not meant to be isolated— we need human contact to be the healthiest people that we can be, and right now, elder’s health and lifespans are declining because they are not seeing their family and friends. The Health Resources and Service Administration compares the Loneliness Epidemic's effects to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. With Generations In Touch, we aim to fight these effects by connecting humans. In this way, we hope to add to building a more connected world overall.
Spiffy: That’s such an amazing endeavor, Ella! What motivated you to do it?
Ella: Thanks Spiffy! I have always believed in the beauty of a human life. When the world seems complicated and filled with problems and fear, the beautifully complex human lives that make up our world is what makes this world so good. Especially these last 4 years, I have understandably seen people lose faith in our country and each other because of the fear and hatred that seems to be all around our country. Yet, I think there is more hope and good in this world that we are just not seeing than there is negativity. We are going through a lot of particularly tough times as a world, but the world is always fighting against something, and yet humans, throughout all of time, have been resilient. We are powerful. We have the power to change the world and make a difference, and while some of that power is actively fighting for these changes, some of that power also comes from just getting up everyday and trying our best. Humans are spectacular and I know that we are good. While all lives are all different, there are some innate human experiences that I think connect us all, and it is highlighting the beauty of those things in stories that I think can create the connection and understanding that can help people see the overwhelming good in the people of the world. Generations in Touch aims to create that connection by connecting generations while also fighting against isolation, one of the evils of this world. By also amplifying the stories that elders have, I hope that elders can feel like their stories and voices matter, because I know they do! I have always loved listening to stories from everyone i meet, especially elders. Every time I talk to an elder, I learn something and I see the world in a new way, and that feeling of understanding is one I want to spread to the rest of the world.
Spiffy: So glad to see you harnessing the power of stories! How are you working towards a more equitable world?
Ella: Isolation is a silent epidemic that affects many people even if we don't see it. Generations In Touch is working towards a more equitable world by leveling out this inequality by centering elder voices and fighting against isolation while bringing elder isolation to the forefront of community conversations. We have so much in common, and I think if we can just connect over the beauty in each other’s lives, a more equal world will be created.
Spiffy: Well said, Ella! Tell me about a recent milestone by Generations in Touch and what impact does that make?
Ella: When Generations In Touch joined the Millennium Fellowship, that was a giant milestone because I felt like I became part of a community filled with students from all over the world who were trying to make a difference in this world because we care deeply about it and the people in it. Even when we feel alone or powerless, there are so many people who are trying to make a difference all around us, even if we don’t realize it.
Spiffy: Congrats on joining the Millennium Fellowship! I’ll never forget the great chat I had with their founder, Sam Vaghar a few weeks ago! In your amazing journey, could you share an experience when you faced failure and didn't give up. What did you learn from the experience?
Ella: Whenever you have an idea, there are always going to be people who don’t understand it or don’t believe in you and your ideas. When I was trying to make the resources for Generations In Touch and talk to community organizers about how best to integrate the project into the community, there were a few people who were quick to dismiss my idea. One woman I talked to over the phone was incredibly demeaning to me. She didn’t think a college student could make a difference in fighting against elder isolation, and she just didn't believe in the validity of the idea for reasons I don’t totally understand. Being on a phone call for 30 minutes where the woman just questions and accuses me and says I can't accomplish what I hope to accomplish so I should stop and just come help her do what she is doing in the community was hard at the moment. For me, it goes back to resilience. While this phone call was a small failure, it did make me doubt my idea for a little bit of time, but being rooted in the strength of people and the want to help others and just hanging on to that belief makes me stronger than just myself— I feel like I am drawing on the inspiration of the strength of people from all over the world. I truly believe that resilience comes in all forms, including just trying our best and continuing on when the world gives you pushback, and this was one of those moments where I could become stronger by continuing to try my best to create the program for a need I know is real. Through different small failures like this, I have learned that believing in yourself and your power and helping others see their power is one of the ways to be the strongest person you can be. You can make a difference, and no matter how big or small that difference is, it is important. Helping one human life is the most beautiful thing I can think of, and when we all strive to help each other and understand each other, that is when the world becomes exponentially more connected, equal, and kind.
Spiffy: More power to you, Ella! Thanks for sharing this experience with me and our wonderful readers across the galaxies. What’s something unexpected that you have learned from someone recently?
Ella: Recently, Van Jones visited my school, and I learned a lot from him. He said that college students often talk about the problems of our world and advocate to fight them, but we need to do more than just that. We need to take action and go out into the world and help actual people help themselves. We are useful to make this world a better place if we are out in the world actively fighting to make it a better place. Last year before there even was a pandemic, I learned about senior isolation and I felt horrible being in school loving what I am learning but feeling like I can’t really make a difference where I am. One of my best friends heard me and suggested I just make my own program that really does help fight against senior isolation. His suggestion to take action is one that I am so thankful for because it did more than just start Generations in Touch. He helped teach me that I have power even now. Us young people often feel like we have to wait to make a difference in our community, but you are ready to start changing the world in small ways right now, and that is world shaking. Our power to help each other is immense, and if we just try, we can make a difference.
Spiffy: That insight is such a gem, Ella! Is there anything else you would love to tell our readers before I fly off to my next stop on Planet Fanoolu?
Ella: I just want to say that I believe in you and the work that you are doing. Whatever that may be— anything from a project to just going about your daily life as a kind person smiling and being kind to others around you and spreading joy— everything that you do has impact. You are a powerful human being. Your ideas and passions are unique, and however you choose to share them with the world, know that you are making a difference.
Spiffy: It’s always a great feeling to have someone in our lives who believes in us! Thanks for talking to me, Ella! Good luck for the amazing work that you’ve undertaken to make Planet Earth more beautiful for all humans! Bye, bye!
Ella: Bye, Spiffy! Take care!
Ella Fasciano is a ‘Civic Studies with a Peace and Justice Track’ and a ‘Film and Media Studies’ student at Tufts University. She is passionate about telling stories through writing, documentaries, interviews, and more, and loves exploring new places and playing music with her family and friends.
Nominated for Spiffy’s Blog by: Millennium Campus Network