‘Grandpals’ Madhavi Sule and Mukund Sule with their ‘goodfellow’ Rupesh – Niki Thakur, provided to the Better India

In India, a group of considerate young people calling themselves the “good fellows” are changing the lives of India’s senior citizens by pairing them with volunteer grandkids.

Meant to combat loneliness and help bring these elders back into society, the organization allows members of the elder’s family to nominate them as a “grandpal” in search of a “good fellow,” typically if their spouse or closest family member isn’t around anymore.

The Goodfellows was started by Shantanu Naidu, Niki Thakur, and Gargi Sandu, a trio of young Indians from Mumbai who all shared a love of hanging out with their grandparents. Today, they have a team of 65 young men and women aged between 18 and 24, and 400 grandpals signed up.

Once nominated, Mr. Naidu, who leads recruitment, has a basic interview with them to gauge their cognitive faculties, but more importantly, their interests in order to pair them with a good fellow who is interested in the same things.

The Better India spoke with two good fellows, aged 23 and 24, who volunteered to pair with grandpals for the program, and they explained that there’s no telling what might happen during any given day. One of them noticed his grandpal needed a new pair of sandals, and so took him shoe shopping for 3 hours to find the perfect pair.

“Kersi uncle has been my grandpal for the last five months,” 23-year-old Aarohi Sawant told The Better India. “We genuinely look forward to hanging out. He’s had his fair share of tough moments, but he swears on focusing on the beautiful bits. He has inspired me to hold onto the moments that make life happy.”

One grandpal calls herself the luckiest lady in the world, because her good fellow is a tech-savvy listener with a good memory; skills that led her to begin writing the 81-year-old woman’s memoirs.

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In some cases, the pairing lasts as long as the grandpal’s remaining years, and in these situations, the good fellow is encouraged to take time off to grieve and take care of their mental health if needed.

“We’ve come across so many grandpals who tell us they feel alone. Aside from a few utility people, the [doorbell] never rings. But our model is now changing things. They are hopeful and excited on the designated days of the week. They look forward to the bell ringing,” Ms. Thakur told The Better India.

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Read more anecdotes and personal stories from The Goodfellows on The Better India, the subcontinent’s largest source for positive news.

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