Clément and Julia are young people who think old people are great. They learned a lot from their grandparents. That inspired them to travel around France, where they live, and around the world, meeting old people who are staying active, helping others and changing the world.
They met granny footballers in South Africa and old Chinese ladies with a YouTube show. They discovered pensioners who teach young people who come to Belgium to escape dangers and hardships in Africa - and a French lady who plays Zelda on Switch with her 12-year-old grandson.
They wrote a book about it and now work to help old people live well as part of our communities.
All that meant that when COVID came along last year and we all went into lockdown, Clément and Julia had a ready-made idea to help some people who were particularly badly affected.
They saw that a lot of old people in France who lived alone couldn’t get visits from their family and friends. And they also saw that there were quite a lot of foreigners who were trying to learn to speak French - but they couldn’t get out and talk to people to practise.
Solution? Get the old French people and the young students of French language together on Zoom. Bingo! They called it ShareAmi. “Ami” means “friend” in French. And so they’re sharing friendship. And the name sounds like “cher ami”, which means “dear friend”.
Among the “dear friends” that ShareAmi has brought together are a student called Saif, who is 22 and comes from Afghanistan, and Andrée, who used to teach English in a French school. She’s 91. You can see them talking in this video. And listen to what Andrée says:
From virtual to real
Another pair who have bridged the generation gap are Dominique, 70, a pensioner in the south of France, and Nada, 26, a student from Canada. She was feeling a bit lonely, stuck in a university residence in central France, when the pandemic started. And Dominique was keen, as he put it, “to make myself useful”.
Dominique thought he would just be spending half an hour a week on Zoom, helping Nada to practise speaking French. But when he heard how lonely she was, he invited her down to stay with him for a holiday. They went on hikes. Dominique said he learned a lot from Nada, about how it felt to travel far from your home country. And Nada learned a lot from Dominique, about how to get herself organised in a country she didn’t know well.
Making it happen
There’s quite a long waiting list of youngsters who want to have conversations with ShareAmi’s older people. When Grace, who’s 16 and at school in London, heard that, she volunteered to improve her French by working as a “facilitator” – to bring young and old people together.
She’s getting on so well, she’s now hoping to get involved in starting a ShareAmi project in Japan, where her own grandparents live.