By Natalia Ruich, Staff Writer
In this time of social isolation, the elderly are some of the most hard hit. Not only are they heavily restricted in who they see and where they go due to their vulnerability, elderly people are less likely to have access to or know how to operate electronic communication devices and applications. The technology that we’re relying on to keep in touch during the pandemic is oftentimes inaccessible to those who must be the most physically isolated.
Shortly after Illinois governor JB Pritzker implemented a stay-at-home order in late March, Payton Freshmen Maya Joshi and Riya Joshi immediately thought of their grandparents. “[Their] anniversary was coming up and we couldn’t celebrate [with] them in person, and I thought about how I spent so much of my early childhood going over to their house and doing art,” said Maya. This connection between the elderly and the arts became the blueprint for Maya and Riya’s organization Lifting Hearts With the Arts.
Lifting Hearts With the Arts pairs volunteers with residents of assisted living facilities and isolated individuals based on a common interest in the arts. Lifting Hearts With the Arts provides many ways for volunteers to virtually engage with their partner. The organization offers group meetings in which volunteers meet with residents for trivia competitions, spelling bees, game hours, and mini concerts. One-on-one meetings, topics of conversation or activities include, but are not limited to: painting, weaving, knitting, chatting, and playing instruments.
Lifting Hearts With the Arts has been a nonprofit organization for only two months and has already been featured on PNN, WGN Radio, Chicago Parent, and Chicago Public School’s official instagram. When questioned about the future of the organization, Maya said, “[Our] goal is to grow our organization so that we can help as many people as possible…we will continue after social distancing is no longer required. [We] are very excited to meet all the residents we have been talking to in person.” Since the organization started, Lifting Hearts With the Arts has expanded to assisted living facilities throughout the Chicagoland area and is focusing on expanding to other states.
As a nonprofit, Lifting Hearts With the Arts relies on donations to purchase technology and art supplies for assisted living facilities. Additionally, the organization accepts any willing teens and eighth graders as volunteers. Information on how to donate and volunteer is on their website liftingheartswiththearts.org.