Equipped with roses, Wadena-Deer Creek students slowly approached residents at The Meadows in Wadena on Valentine's Day.
Both students and their elders were quiet at first, but as the students began passing out the flowers, the conversations started and continued for the better part of an hour. The students, all part of the National Honor Society, were recruited as part of the Cupid Crew in an attempt to reduce senior isolation even if for just a day. This was the second year of the event at The Meadows.
Students unsure at first, soon were cross-legged on the floor soaking in the stories of the residents or standing in awe as they were asked question after question about sports, family, their hopes and dreams.
"It's really cool to get that connection and be able to learn about how things were when they were young, I know it means a lot to them," senior Maggie Carlson said of the experience.
Elliot Doyle spoke about working with folks in the memory care where he works. He mentioned sometimes those residents don't remember them from their conversation the day before, but the interaction is still so important.
"Making them happy and seeing them happy, just going in and talking to them, it's fun to see everyday," Doyle said.
Carlson mentioned that youth often get a bad wrap for not caring or having respect.
"I think this is a good reminder that there are still some of us that aren't too bad," Carlson said.
According to AARP, 1 in 5 Americans 65 and older struggle with social isolation. That isolation is complex, manifesting itself in numerous ways and being directly correlated with numerous health complications such as depression and decreased quality of life.
Carrie Ament, activities director at The Meadows said the success of the event could be seen in the smiling faces of the residents.
"When these younger kids come in and hear all these stories ... and just watching the residents with the smiles on their faces, because they enjoy talking about the things they did when they were younger at that age," Ament said.
Seven years ago, Wish of a Lifetime, a non profit organization that grants wishes to senior citizens nationwide, attempted to thwart isolation with the formation of the Cupid Crew. The Cupid Crew works to empowers volunteers to deliver roses to seniors spreading love and awareness on February 14 about the trials and tribulations of living in isolation. This event was planned nationwide to span over 500 cities with a goal of delivering 50,000 roses.
While the roses were nice, it seemed the conversation was the most appreciated gift of all.