A new virtual friendship bridges the generation gap 00:00

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A new virtual friendship bridges the generation gap

Big & Mini, a nonprofit organization that fosters intergenerational relationships through virtual communication, helped Elva Roy, 75, and Daniel Formella, 20, form a special friendship. Elva and Daniel check in with one another and reflect on how they felt at the start of the pandemic.

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By 2030, 1 of every 5 people in the United States — or 20% of the nation's population — will be age 65 or older. Source: U.S. Census

Daniel Formella: Hey Elva!

Elva Roy: Hey Daniel, how’s it going? How was your week?

Daniel Formella: It’s been good, not too much work and midterms haven’t driven me too crazy. So yeah, it’s been pretty good overall, how was your week?

Elva Roy: I’ve had a great week. Because, my granddaughter, Hollyn is out on spring break. She’s nine years old. And she’s been here all week.

Daniel Formella: Oh, great!

Elva Roy:  Yeah. So we’ve been having a good time. I’ve even let her watch Judge Judy with me, which I’ve told you was my guilty pleasure.

Daniel Formella: Oh yeah… guilty, pun too. So Elva, is this the first time you’ve seen Hollyn since this whole Covid hoopla started or?

Elva Roy: It is. it’s the first time in a year. 

Daniel Formella: Wow.

Erika Romero: For Elva Roy and Daniel Formella, the idea of assisting people in staying connected during the Covid-19 pandemic intrigued their interest in taking part in Big and Mini, a nonprofit whose mission is to bridge the generational gap between older and younger individuals by pairing them in the hopes of creating new friendships. What Elva and Daniel intended to use as a resource to share with their communities soon turned into a powerful tool for creating a meaningful friendship. 

Elva Roy: So Daniel, I know that you have gotten a lot of family time in and when the pandemic started, we thought we would be quarantined. But it seems that you didn’t pay that much attention. Well you kind of did, you kind of stayed at home, you didn’t interact with your buddies, like you would normally do.

Elva Roy, right, celebrates Christmas with her family in Arlington, Texas, in December 2019. The 75-year-old grandmother and Daniel Formella, 20, formed a special bond during the pandemic. (Photo courtesy of Roy)

Daniel Formella: Right, yeah. And that’s kind of how Allen told me about Big and Mini. The quarantine had just kind of been ordered. Allen, who I’ve been a friend with since middle school, and another friend named Paul, we wanted to hang out and get together. But you know, we couldn’t go to each other’s houses. So we just decided to meet up in our old high school parking lot. And so we were there and you know, kind of yelling at each other from our cars. It was actually then that he told me about Big and Mini. Things are still super discerning back then, but he sort of said that he wanted to kind of help make a way for people to talk with each other despite the quarantine order, and especially, senior and older folks with younger folks who typically have a generational gap in their understandings, and they kind of think that they’re too different that they can’t be friends. But yeah, he wanted to prove that wrong and kind of fight loneliness, right? And he asked me if I wanted to join and be a part of it. Obviously, when I heard what it was about, I definitely wanted to join. Maybe after a week, I got matched up with you, Elva and I definitely didn’t think it’d be quick. And as you’ve said before, we thought it’d be kind of awkward and like a little strange, and maybe it was for the first few minutes, but you’re a very easy person to talk to. And obviously, now we’re friends.

Elva Roy: Yeah, I thought the same thing. I thought it might be a little awkward to talk to a 19-year-old male college student, but I was interested because I do want to understand, you know, the… are you Gen Z? I think you’re Gen Z? 

Daniel Formella: Yeah, I think so. 

Elva Roy:  Yeah. As opposed to millennials, which are my children. But, I’m always open to learning and having different perspectives. And so, I like that we have an open relationship. 

My first impression when I first met you, and that was on a Zoom call, was just the image and I thought, Wow, what a handsome young man. And then when we talked a little bit, I thought he’s humble, but confident and well-spoken, intelligent, and has a great smile. So those were my first impressions and I just thought, hats off to his parents for rearing such a decent human being.

Daniel Formella: Aw, that’s nice of you to say, Elva, I appreciate it. I remember when I first saw you, the first thing I noticed when I heard your voice was your very, very rich Texan accent, which I’m very jealous of…

Elva Roy: I don’t think I have an accent at all. Maybe an Oklahoma twang…

Daniel Formella: Also, you told me about your work, and you’re so active in your community. And I really admire that, that kind of inspires me, I hope to be as active in my community when I’m older. But you’ve kind of shown me that people still need to help other people and be active in their community and everything.

Elva Roy:  So I really — when I joined Big and Mini, I didn’t really think I fit the profile of a lonely elder, but I wanted to check it out, because I was asked to recommend it to the group that I lead. Once I met you, and I enjoyed our conversation so much, I reconsidered and thought, ‘you know, you are one of the lonely older adults. Because if you weren’t, you wouldn’t enjoy these conversations, these intergenerational conversations as much as you do’. So it has really enriched my life over the last year. And I know, I had a question about whether we think our friendship will go on forever and ever. And it’s hard to say right now, we don’t know for sure what the future holds. But I won’t be surprised if it does, I expect that we’ll always know where one another is and how to reach out if we want to. And in the meantime, for this past year of probably the upcoming year, and who knows, we speak every Saturday morning, and just do a check-in and catch up and learn what’s going on with each other’s lives and share on a pretty deep level, I would say.

Daniel Formella, 20, shown here at Lake Tahoe, Calif., on June 20, 2020. (Photo courtesy of Formella)

Daniel Formella: Oh yeah, I agree. I definitely think — well, at least when I started out, doing my conversations with you. And when Covid first started, I didn’t really feel as lonely. But then, you know, sort of the fatigue came in, I did start to feel kind of more lonely. And that’s even, or that’s when I started to appreciate the conversations with you even more. I think our friendship can continue growing. Definitely gives something — gives me something to look forward to on my Saturday mornings.

Elva Roy: Thank you, as always, I’ve enjoyed our conversation and I’ll talk to you next Saturday.

Daniel Formella: All right, likewise. 

Elva Roy: Okay, cool.

Erika Romero: To find out more about Big and Mini, go to BigandMini.org. For iPondr, I’m Erika Romero.

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