Connecting Generations: The Inspiration Behind Perfect Pair
Emily Lerner, Founder and Executive Director at Perfect Pair
Emily when she first started Perfect Pair
When I was younger, my mom would pick my little sister and me up from school and drive us back to the assisted living community where she worked. I loved it there. I would run around the community, hopping from room to room to room. My favorite residents would greet me with a story or a piece of candy, and I often ended my nights bothering the cooks in the kitchen to sneak me an ice cream sandwich. As a six-year-old, assisted living was paradise.
When I entered college, I knew I wanted to continue my experience with senior living. Each Friday afternoon I took the bus to serve as a Resident Enrichment Volunteer in my local community. Through consistent volunteering, I grew close to many of the residents, and I learned about their lives- where they grew up, who and what they loved, and their journey to long-term care.
Residents of this community came from New York City, Florida, Texas, and Mexico. They were writers, homemakers, businesspeople, and artists. They came to senior living because their partners were ill, because they suffered a stroke, or simply because they needed additional support for their daily activities. I learned about the residents’ diverse interests, passions, and hobbies. I also saw how the staffing shortages, separation from their previous communities, and lack of cross-generational connections often isolated and impacted the residents. Bingo just wasn’t cutting it. I knew things could be better. I wanted to make them better.
Emily with her grandma, her first mentor and teacher
After four years of volunteering and my graduation from the University of Michigan, I decided to take a leap, hoping to provide fellow students with what I gained from spending years in senior care: impactful connections and mentorship from older adults. This is where Perfect Pair was born.
Perfect Pair individually pairs residents in assisted living, independent living, and memory care communities, as well as seniors living at home, one-on-one with college students based on their shared background, interests, and hobbies. Pairs meet weekly, and can choose to participate in programming to reconnect to their passions - like canvas painting, book clubs, yoga, and more. For example, we paired a Spanish-speaking resident with a career in social work with a Spanish-speaking volunteer pursuing social work. This provided a space for the resident to speak in her native language and share career advice, and gave the volunteer mentorship.
Perfect Pair has expanded past my wildest dreams. We are now stationed at 6 college campuses in 5 states, serve hundreds of seniors and students, and have over 70+ people working on our leadership teams to continue creating long-lasting intergenerational relationships. I cannot wait to see where we go from here.