Students connect with elderly people through Enactus Sage


Photo Courtesy of Enactus

A student converses with an elderly man as a part of Enactus Sage. This branch of the organization address senior loneliness by developing inter-generational relationships through interviews and the written word.

By Olivia Vamos, Staff Writer

For many, letter writing can be a way to communicate with others in a way different from the usual texting or emailing that most use today. Through one RSO at the University of Illinois, letter writing has provided a way for students to get involved within the community while also increasing their entrepreneurial skills.

Enactus is a social entrepreneurship organization on campus where students take part in different projects. 

According to the Enactus website, the organization creates businesses that aim to solve these social and environmental issues in the community.

Sanjana Gangadharan, sophomore in Business, is a project manager of Sage in Enactus. She said Sage is a project created by students to help elderly community members.

Chaya Leeisranukul, senior in Business and project associate in Enactus, said she hopes Sage will help foster community for elderly participants.

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    “So Sage is a project under Enactus which is a nonprofit RSO,” Leeisranukul said. “Sage addresses the issue of some older individuals who might feel a little bit of a sense of isolation from the community. So what Sage does is we try to build relationships between college students and older individuals in the community to foster a healthy, supportive relationship between the two groups.” 

    Matt Splitstone, sophomore in Business, is a project associate in Enactus. Splitstone said the Enactus Sage project team consists of six project associates, one project manager and one executive manager. Then there are also the student volunteers, which are the people who talk to the elderly participants.

    Leeisranukul said all students can volunteer for Enactus.

    Gangadharan said the project was in person before COVID-19. However, because of COVID-19, Sage is now doing a letter writing program in order to keep the elderly participants safe.

    Gangadharan said that in order to get paired with an elderly participant, student volunteers will fill out a Google Form. They will be assigned someone based on their answers on that Google Form.

    The Collaborations in Health, Aging, Research and Technology, or CHART, is an organization that is partnering with Enactus to help Enactus members find elderly participants for the program.

    There is also a business aspect of Sage. Splitstone said they are working with CHART to improve a legacy booklet process this year. 

    Splitstone said the production staff are launching a booklet of memories project where members will collect stories from the elderly participants. They will later have the opportunity to purchase the booklet. He also said in the future, if the production staff are given consent by the elderly participant, Enactus members could sell the booklet to community members and online. 

    Gangadharan said the student volunteers are supposed to ask questions that will cause the elderly participants to share certain stories about their past.

    Splitstone said the elderly participants share a lot of great stories. He said there is a lot to learn from the elderly participants and that he suggests others participate in a similar experience. 

    “Because there is so much that they lived through that is so different from life as we know it,” Splitsone said. “So just by asking those questions there is a lot that I think we as a younger generation can learn from older generations and that’s something that we definitely value.”

    Leeisranukul said this year there are community events planned for Sage. One event planned is a Zoom share and tell, where both the students and the elderly participants will bring and talk about an item that has sentimental value to them.

    Leeisranukul said another event planned is a Zoom meeting that is similar to a book club. Beforehand, the elderly participants and the students will read assigned chapters from a book they enjoy and discuss over Zoom.

    Gangadharan said she likes the interactive part of Sage. 

    “Sage is one of the only Enactus projects where you actually get to first hand see the impact that you’re making and really work with the target group” Gangadharan said. “So a lot of our projects are more product based, so this is great for people who really enjoy being social, working with people.” 

    Splitstone said Sage is currently in the process of recruiting student volunteers.