Madeline Dangerfield-Cha and Joy Zhang got to know each other on a trip to Lake Tahoe just before starting at Stanford Business School. Over a campfire conversation, they bonded over big questions, such as how do you connect people from different generations in meaningful ways?
This year, Dangerfield-Cha, MBA ’18, and Zhang, ’10, MBA ’18, co-founded the business Mon Ami (“my friend” in French) to address an important but often taboo topic: social isolation among senior citizens. The online service pairs college students with senior citizens and people who are living with dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and disabilities. The students visit the customers in their homes and engage them in mentally stimulating activities such as painting, completing puzzles or writing a memoir.
After interviewing more than 150 elderly people and their family members, friends and caregivers, Dangerfield-Cha and Zhang decided to begin offering the paid service to residents across the San Francisco Bay Area. “People love that it’s someone who is enthusiastic, energetic and eager to be there because they want to be, not because they have to be,” Zhang says.
As a former hospice volunteer, Zhang knows firsthand the special interaction and energy that young people can offer to older generations. “College students are a naturally occurring resource in every state in America, and we found an incredibly meaningful way for them to give back.”
Diana Aguilera is a staff writer at Stanford.