Program pairs at-risk seniors to youth

A retirement community is highlighting a need for seniors by highlighting a special friendship.

BURIEN – It can be difficult or isolating for seniors to transition into retirement communities, and many could use a friend. A program called Friend-to-Friend helps seniors at risk of loneliness connect with young people.

Ramiro Contreras was in the middle of his junior year when he joined the program at Highline high school. He started going to the El Dorado West Retirement Community and instantly connected with Nyle Kracke, who moved from Colorado to be closer to one of his sons. Kracke seemed to have a hard time adjusting to his new life in assisted care and says Contreras helped him.

“He’s cooled me off from my feelings here,” says Kracke. “He doesn’t know this, but I really look forward to seeing him.”

Contreras has since graduated high school but tries to see Kracke once a week. He takes an hour-long bus ride each way to make the trip.

“He reminds me of my grandpa who passed away, so I like that,” says Contreras. “He’s always like, ‘Are you going to school?'”

Often the two don’t do much other than catch up on school and talk about the days Kracke lived on an Iowa farm. Contreras says he enjoys listening to the way things were.

“I think it did change me,” says Contreras. “It taught me how to just love life, to love each other and to care for each other ever single day.”

And for Kracke, who is in his nineties, his friendship with Contreras gives him something to look forward to each day.

“Makes a different world for me,” says Kracke. “Makes it worthwhile living, honestly. I just have to say he’s something special to me.”