School of Medicine

Circling back to purpose

Harsh Moolani founded Create Circles as an undergrad. The nonprofit that pairs older adults with college students is now a national organization with some 700 volunteers in 33 states. (Photo: Scott McIntyre)

While still an Arts & Sciences pre-med undergrad at WashU, Harsh Moolani, AB ’19, founded Create Circles, a nonprofit that pairs older adults with trained college student volunteers. 

“I’d meet older people who had incredible accomplishments, but their loneliness was greater than their achievements,” he says. “It’s hard to take pride in what you’ve done if you don’t have someone to share it with.”

Under the program, the student and older adult focus on crafting a sense of purpose that might alleviate loneliness, a need Moolani noticed while volunteering at nursing homes. Through companionship, engaging in long-term projects and developing meaningful relationships, participants also regain autonomy. For example, a woman who could no longer cook was paired with a student who helped her produce a cookbook for her family and friends.

“For many in long-term care, things are happening to them,” Moolani says. “Our curriculum allows older adults to feel as if they are the ones helping because they have something to give.”

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