In 2018, Mary Gillett graduated from Niwot High School and headed west for Stanford University. During her first year, she joined a local volunteer program called “Mon Ami” that pairs senior citizens with college-aged companions.
Started by two Stanford graduates, Mon Ami - meaning “my friend” in French - places activity companions with isolated and lonely seniors to provide social engagement that the seniors may currently be lacking. Gillett was paired with a woman named Doris in the spring of 2019 and immediately knew the program was a great fit. She spent the next months getting to know Doris and providing much needed friendship and attention.
Gillett said, "It was awesome for me to get off campus and get away from Stanford. It's a very hectic, go-getter, competitive environment. It was nice to get away and slow down. To be with someone who was lonely, to make her day and form a friendship with someone a lot older and wiser than myself was great."
Mon Ami is not a medical group or caretaking service. Companions who work for Mon Ami are purely there to provide the isolated senior with easy conversation, engaging activities and enjoyable companionship.
Gillett returned home to Niwot this summer and is working to open a Boulder group of Mon Ami companions who can provide much needed engagement for Front Range senior citizens. She is the first-ever launch intern for Mon Ami and the Boulder group will be the first satellite organization for this companionship organization.
Mon Ami in the Bay Area currently has 500 companions signed up, and the group is just over a year old. So far, Gillett has signed up three companions in Boulder County and she’s only just getting started. She is reaching out to assisted living facilities, spreading the program across social media platforms, and connecting with college-aged students to share information about Mon Ami.
The activity companion position is a paid one, and at $17 an hour, makes for a fantastic college job. Compared to many area volunteer programs,Gillett feels that Mon Ami’s hourly rate helps the company retain trustworthy, reliable activity companions, while ensuring families that utilize the service can plan on their companion showing up regularly and on time.
Gillett ’s favorite part of Mon Ami is maintaining a connection with an age group different than her own and feeling close to her own grandmother, who lives far away. "I always feel really good after visiting Doris. I know for her it’s a bright spot in her day, which is otherwise kind of lonely. It also makes me feel very happy. My grandma has alzehemiers and she was a big part of my childhood. In the last couple years she'd had to move out of state to be closer to her primary caretaker. So it's keeping a connection with a grandmother figure as well."
Her long-term goal for the program is to set it up as fully functional before she returns to Stanford in the fall. If you or someone you know could benefit from a social companion, reach out to Gillett at firstname.lastname@example.org.