In grandma and grandpa’s generation, a letter was a special arrival waiting inside the mailbox. I can still hear the sound of paper ripping as my grandmother carefully opened each envelope with her paper knife. She would smile as she came to a personal letter from one of her sisters across state, peeking in to see what message was hidden inside. These days, inboxes have replaced mailboxes and information can be transferred in the blink of an eye.
Generally speaking, I enjoy the many conveniences available in our modern world, but sometimes it feels nice to slow down and do things the “old-fashioned” way. Every now and then I enjoy digging out some stationary and putting my favorite ink to paper. Let’s go back a few years to the time letters were written, penmanship was something of pride and some things just meant more because, well, they took time. A hand written note may not only be fun to do, but it will be very much appreciated by the recipient.
Will it really make a difference?
Many of the elderly in senior facilities suffer from depression due to loneliness. In some cases, residents maintain a normal level cognitive function but have extremely limited mobility. When our bodies cannot keep up with our minds, it becomes all the more difficult to have a healthy social life. Social connections are an important part of leading a balanced life for all of us. By adopting a pen pal, you will surely find joy in the connection you make and you could be pulling someone out of the shadows of depression. Imagine having the mail runner stop by your room announcing that today you received a letter. I think it’s safe to say, yes, for the right person, it really will make a difference.
Isn’t having a Pen Pal for kids?
It can be a great experience for a child to become a pen pal, further teaching them to have compassion for others and about the joys of giving not just receiving. Children are able to express their creative side by coloring a picture or writing a few kind words. That being said, I think adults have the potential to create an even deeper experience for another adult. Years of life experience have shown us happiness, sorrow, friendship and solitude. As adults, we have the ability to create a specials connections with someone and truly understand what an impact that connection can have through words. This could also be a great opportunity to do something along with your child, grandchild, niece or nephew.
How do I choose someone?
This is a really fun part of becoming a pen pal! You can choose someone local from your hometown or maybe choose another state or even country! There are sites you can sign up for to be a pen pal but I recommend calling a nursing or assisted living facility and speaking directly to the activity director (AD) for information. The AD will probably know better than anyone which resident has the greatest need for a pen pal. The AD can get permission from the resident and or family so that they approve and are aware of your intentions and expecting your letter. You do not need any personal information of the resident other than the facilities address and who to make at attention to. You can also call or email for an update to see how the resident responded to your letter. I had residents in the past have her postcards from a pen pal hung all over her wall.
What do I write about?
You can start by introducing yourself and thanking them for accepting your letter. Generally it’s a good idea not to get too personal or ask too many questions at first. Let your reader get to know you and keep it light and fun! Having decorative stationary and embellishing the envelope is an extra treat for the resident as well, making it almost like a letter and a gift all in one.
How often do I write?
It is up to you how often you write but remember not to promise anything you can’t deliver. Holidays and special occasions are always good times to write but anytime is a good time to receive a friendly note! Set a reminder on your phone or jot it down on your calendar so when life gets busy and time flies by your letter doesn’t get accidentally skipped!
Have fun with it and happy pen pal’ing…the old-fashioned way!
This blog is not a pen pal program. If you would like to become a pen pal or start a program of your own, I suggest contacting a senior facility near you for information on volunteering. Thank you for your interest and for all of your wonderful responses, I wish you success on your pen pal journey!