Student housing companies Student.com and Student Roost, along with the care home group, Sheffcare, launched Together: an initiative connecting university students with elderly care home residents. The Sheffield, UK-based program aims to foster relationships between students and seniors, after both were found to be suffering from high levels of loneliness; Student.com found that 70% of the students it surveyed felt lonely while at university, while approximately one-third of US seniors say they are lonely. Together is kicking off with 12 students, each of whom will be paired with an elderly ‘buddy’, starting this semester.
Besides filling in the loneliness gap for seniors and students, this program does the important work of dispelling a long-held stereotype: that it’s largely older adults that experience severe loneliness. The Together initiative also sparks some additional, key insights every brand can absorb:
Bursting bubbles. Evidently, students and seniors have a major plight in common. But these groups might not interact much if it weren’t for programs like Together or reverse mentoring schemes (younger workers mentoring older ones). So if your brand plans on striking a chord by tapping into the deep, human need all consumers have for connection, you can start by bursting your customers’ bubbles – the societal spheres dissuading them from bonding with new, different types of people. The Together initiative gets people out of their comfort zones and exposes them to new (or old! ;) perspectives. What kind of person could burst your customer’s bubble, expand their worldview and bring them a little joy?
New cooks in the kitchen. Once you have distinct groups and perspectives in a room together, you can do more than just foster relationships between them. You can give them the opportunity to work with each other and your team to innovate for your brand! Multiple studies have found more diverse teams to be more creative and innovative. So consider how the people you bring together may differ – racially, age-wise, culturally or in another way. Which disparate groups could cook up some innovation magic together?