Lively is the quintessential example of innovation that can change the face of non-profits in 2018.
With an attention to Australia’s ageing population and an aged care sector that’s struggling to meet the needs of the elderly generation, Lively works to bridge the gap between them and today’s youth, creating opportunities for meaningful connections in the community that wouldn’t have existed otherwise.
The social enterprise trains and employs young job seekers aged 18 – 25 to work with elderly people who are looking to learn more about how to use technology. In their initial research on what services or support the elderly generation could benefit from, founder and CEO Anna Donaldson comments that technology was the one notable area that kept resurfacing – “we thought, well that’s great, because that’s where a lot of the young people have some skills they probably take for granted.” Actions as simple as opening an email or downloading a .jpg have completely changed the way we communicate, but not all members of society have been able to keep up with the tech revolution. Lively recognizes this, and their service pairs youths with elderly people in their area based on their initial interaction and the kinds of skills they’re looking to develop. Often this means forming partnerships with palliative care and aged care facilities, or directly with elderly members of the community interested in Lively’s services.
For the elderly, Anna states that “it’s a way of connecting, communicating and pursuing their interests, and also building relationships with those younger people – providing a bit of companionship, as well as the help with technology”. The numbers speak for themselves. Since their launch Lively has fielded over 2,000 applications across 45 job openings for youths, showcasing a huge amount of demand from young people – something nearly unheard of in the non-profit space. Anna cites the unique nature of the work as a massive draw card for millennials, allowing them to apply their skills to a job that feels genuinely rewarding and fulfilling. With youth unemployment also topical, and many young people struggling to get a foot in the door to gain work experience, the concept behind Lively seems to answer to a range of social issues from every which way you look at it.
Of course, it’s the heartwarming anecdotes that really prove the kind of invaluable difference Lively is making in the community. Take the story of Ethan and Margaret, one of Anna’s favourites;
“Ethan came into one of our programs early last year – he had finished high school and just been completely stuck ever since. He hadn’t gone on to further study, couldn’t get a job anywhere, had no idea where he wanted to go or what he wanted to do next, and was just sort of stuck at home all day, every day.
“We brought him in and gave him a go in the program, and we placed him at an aged care facility in his local area. He worked with a number of the residents there – it was a short-term program for him (6 weeks), but he developed a really beautiful relationship with one of the residents there in particular, Margaret. They have a hilarious little bond, and really hit it off.”
After the program wrapped up, Anna checked in with Ethan to see what had been happening for him since then – and found out that he had been continuing to visit Margaret every other week for a whole year, having been inspired by the experience and feeling what a difference he could make in other people’s lives. Ethan decided to pursue aged care training as a result of his experience with Lively, gained his qualification to provide aged care and was offered a position by the aged care facility where Lively placed him. Today, Ethan is ready to begin working at the facility full-time.
“I asked him at the time, ‘Do you think you would’ve found your way there anyway?’ and he said ‘No, absolutely not’, there’s just no way it would’ve crossed his mind. Now he’s there, and he’s loving it.”
On the other end of the spectrum, take the story of Leah. Leah’s daughter, who lives overseas, gave birth recently to her first baby – Leah’s first ever grandchild.
“She’d never met the baby, but her daughter had been emailing her photos – sadly, Leah didn’t know how to open the photos or how to download them, and felt too silly to admit that she couldn’t do it,” describes Anna.
“Leah had been pretending to have seen the photos and writing emails back saying, “Oh, she’s beautiful!” despite never actually seeing them. So Inna (her tech tutor) taught her how to open the photos, and she got to actually see these photos of her grandchild for the first time.”
“It’s something that we all take for granted, when it’s something that we know how to do and can do, but when we actually stop and think about the connections and communication it makes possible that you just wouldn’t have otherwise, it’s huge – it makes a massive difference.”
Leah and Inna’s story captures the true essence of what Lively does and why it exists, enabling families to connect across the world in ways they once couldn’t, and creating meaningful friendships that transcend even the widest of age gaps. Lively’s work shows just how much can be learned from intergenerational interactions, and how it’s a huge opportunity that is largely being missed.
Leah’s story didn’t end there, with Inna’s visits continuing for some time to come.
“(Leah) said that part of the reason why she continued so long with the program was partly because she’d formed such a beautiful relationship with Inna and just loved having her come – she lives by herself – and she looked forward to Inna’s visit every week.”
While Anna acknowledges that the tech help is the service, she knows that what it’s really all about is creating connections across the generations. By simultaneously creating opportunities for young people to develop some employment history along with some skills and confidence, everyone involved stands to gain something valuable – whether it’s new skills, experiences, or friendships – from what Lively brings to the table.