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2-year-old boy becomes best friends with lonely 99-year-old neighbor during pandemic

2-year-old boy becomes best friends with lonely 99-year-old neighbor during pandemic
2-year-old boy becomes best friends with lonely 99-year-old neighbor during pandemic. Courtesy of Sarah Olson.

Two Minneapolis neighbors, Mary who is 99, and Benjamin who is 2, have formed an unlikely friendship which started at the fence between their two properties.

“Benjamin just turned 2 years old, we’ve been neighbors with Mary long before he was born,” Benjamin’s mom, Sarah Olson said. Although they didn’t see Mary very often due to their work schedules, last year’s pandemic caused the Olsen family to be at home. The Olsen’s began to notice that Mary was someone they could spend time with — outside.

During the pandemic, the Olsen’s were in their yard much more often, and began to notice Mary was in her yard too. As Benjamin began to walk and talk over the last year, he started to play with Mary.

2-year-old Benjamin holding hands with his new friend Mary across their backyard fence.
2-year-old Benjamin holding hands with his new friend Mary across their backyard fence. Courtesy of Sarah Olson.

“He would run over to Mary when he would see her in the yard and he would bring her a ball,” Olson said. “And she created this game that we call Ping Ball, where Benjamin brings her a ball and Mary reaches her cane over our fence, flips it over and kind of kicks it to Benjamin back and forth.”

Although there is a 97-year age difference between them, Ben doesn’t seem to notice.

“She’s just Mary, or in the past couple of days, he’s been calling her ‘Mimi,'” Olson said. “We’ll be playing inside and he’ll go, ‘Mimi? Mimi?’ and we’ll go outside and look for Mimi.” “She’ll call out, ‘Hey Benjamin!’ when she sees him, and it’s just been so cute to watch it,” she said.

For Mary, who was alone during the pandemic, a new friend, no matter what age, was just what she needed. “We learned how much she looked forward to seeing him playing in the yard and how Benjamin kind of kept her going in the pandemic when she wasn’t able to see anyone else,” Olson said.

2-year-old Benjamin sitting with his new friend Mary on the steps in the backyard.
2-year-old Benjamin sitting with his new friend Mary on the steps in the backyard. Courtesy of Sarah Olson.

Mary and Benjamin’s friendship has allowed Mary to rediscover childhood fun, like blowing bubbles, and playing with water guns. Mary does have one Granddaughter, who is already an adult. Mary says Benjamin is the closest thing she has to Grandchildren or Great-Grandchildren.

Although it has been more than a year since Mary and Benjamin became friends, they’re still having fun playing together. Ben’s Mother Sarah thinks Mary and Ben’s friendship resonates with so many people, because people like to see relationships form so naturally for young people and elderly people. “We didn’t have to work on it at all, it just happened really naturally,” she said.

“Friendship can just happen so many different ways, I’m just really happy they were able to form this friendship – quarantine or not, pandemic or not,” she said. “I’m happy they formed this friendship because it means a lot to her and it means a lot to him too.”


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