If you’re someone who is interested in forming bonds and gaining new perspectives, then The Concordium is the perfect club for you.
During a pandemic when individuals can feel isolated, the Concordium’s mission is to cultivate meaningful bonds in intergenerational relationships through matching a student with an elderly resident to combat social isolation and improve mental and physical health of those involved.
Co-President Brigid Belger ‘22 was first introduced to the program through a friend from high school who co-founded the program at Harvard University, according to News@Fairfield.
Belger shared that during the quarantine period her friend had posted on her Facebook page looking for people to get involved.
Belger was then able to connect with an eldery member of her community as a mentor/mentee pairing, and through phone conversations she was able to form a meaningful relationship with her mentee that helped her to feel less lonely during the quarantine period.
She then decided to bring this program to Fairfield’s campus after recognizing the mutual beneficial impact the experience had on her as well as the elderly persons involved.
Fellow Co-President Brianna Vandermark ‘22 recognized the health benefits that can result from these telecommunicated bonds.
“College students as well as older people during the pandemic experienced high levels of stress and loneliness,” Vandermark said. “Through these phone conversations we are hoping to create a mutually beneficial relationship between those involved, and hopefully have these individuals learn from each other and gain a new perspective.”
Belger and Vandermark have worked with their executive board to connect with elderly individuals in the Fairfield community, and to create compatible pairings with a Fairfield student for weekly or bi-weekly phone calls.
Belger shared that “each student and elderly resident fills out a short form that is based on their general interests, and then we evaluate each form to make the best possible pairing.”
Both Belger and Vandermark shared similar sentiments that this pairing experience gives students an opportunity to have these conversations with those of a different generation that they might not have had otherwise, and to disprove any preconceived notions students may have about the older generation and possibly see similarities between themselves and them.
Belger shared that the club is planning on an event in April, where two graduate students from The Concordium at Harvard University will come to train members of the club or anyone interested in how to interact with individuals with dementia.
The goal of this training session will be to remove the stigma that revolves around dementia, specifically when diagnosed individuals feel isolated when people refrain from having conversations with them or believe they cannot fully communicate or understand the conversation.
When asked about the impact The Concordium can have on Fairfield’s campus as well as in the Fairfield community, Vandermark says, “As a Jesuit School we promote being men and women for others and that during this difficult time it is important to come together and be there for one another.”
Belger echoed this by sharing her own personal experience this year of talking with an older resident.
Belger shares that when talking with her mentee, he imparts much wisdom and knowledge onto her, and that it makes her day to get to talk to him on the phone.
“I hope other students will have a positive experience like this and hopefully it will make them feel less lonely during a pandemic,” Belger said.
Any students interested in joining or learning more about The Concordium can check out their Life@Fairfield page. Anyone who knows an older member of the Fairfield community who would be interested in getting involved in the program, can reach out directly to the Executive Board.