Ann Arbor nonprofit fights social isolation with new connections, intergenerational friendships

A student and a senior during a Perfect Pair visit. (Perfect Pair)

ANN ARBOR – If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that being isolated is one of the loneliest experiences.

Older adults who were disconnected from family and friends were hit especially hard by isolation when socializing came to a standstill in 2020.

Nonprofit Perfect Pair is looking to reduce that loneliness and bridge the gap between generations by making one-on-one connections between college students and seniors.

The organization was launched in 2020 and aims to “reunite people with their passions” like painting or reading alongside a friend who is a consistent presence in their life. Pairs are matched based on personal interests or shared backgrounds.

“Being able to make these genuine, one-on-one, matches with Perfect Pair [students] has been invaluable for our community and our residents,” Resident Enrichment Coordinator for Hillside Terrace Senior Living Erin Klein said in a statement.

Perfect Pair aims to improve senior wellbeing and overall health while reinforcing purpose and a feeling of community for its participants.

“We are so similar in personality that I consider him the best friend I have ever had,” a participant named Kaj said in a statement about his pair. “We share deep conversations about everything in our weekly get-togethers, and I am very grateful for the program that made it possible.”

Seniors and college student pairs meet weekly and can choose from more than 50 activities to engage in.

According to the organization, the program has been mutually beneficial for both seniors and students.

“My pair has taught me so much about life; she has lived through so many life experiences that her advice is so valuable to me,” student volunteer Lizzy said in a statement. “I’ve learned to treat my parents, siblings, and friends in different ways and she has made me a better person. It doesn’t feel like volunteering to me, it feels like a true friendship.”

Perfect Pair now operates across five college campuses in four states and serves more than 18 long-term care communities. The organization hopes to expand to more campuses around the U.S.

About the Author:

Meredith has worked for WDIV since August 2017 and was voted one of Washtenaw County's best journalists in 2019 by eCurrent's readers. She covers the community of Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in International Broadcast Journalism from City University London, UK.