The happiness of receiving a letter in the mail cannot be overstated. Just remembering the surprise and delight of receiving an actual handwritten note likely fills you with a glimmer of joy.
While handwritten letters cannot replace sitting opposite someone for a cup of tea, for many – especially seniors – there’s an element of social connection in the act of sending and receiving letters.
This feeling was not lost on 17 year old Yvee Rosenthal when she was faced with a summer of cancelled plans: no camp, no classes, no internship.
“Instead of wallowing in my misery (ok I did that for a couple days)”, says Yvee, “I came up with a way to give back, safely.”
Thanks to Yvee’s initiative, elderly residents confined to their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic could soon find a message of hope in their letterbox – and potentially make new friends.
Piloted at McCarthy Place Retirement Residence in Ottawa, Cards4 Care, is an opportunity to connect youth (and adults) with seniors living in retirement homes through writing letters and emails. “The mission is to connect with seniors…as a way to lift people’s spirits”, explains Yvee. “The hope is that they’ll become pen pals, and fast friends”.
Health and Wellness Director Nikki Byers is excited to see this program launched. “It’s always a treat to get something in the mail that isn’t a bill, and puts a smile on your face!” Nikki believes that “receiving an uplifting letter, could help prevent social isolation and boost mental health. Especially during times of difficulty and restrictions with COVID19. Our seniors are super excited!”
Letter Writing Reduces Isolation
Older people living alone can feel isolated at the best of times, not to mention during a pandemic. As people are spending an unprecedented amount of time alone or unable to visit with family and friends, having a pen pal gives them something to look forward to.
It also gives visibility and value to the recipient and is a tangible reminder of their worth that they can look to when they need a boost. For youthful writers, it’s a chance to slow down, practice literacy skills, learn about times past, and build relationships with older generations.
Writing Is Good For Your Brain
Studies continue to highlight the benefits of writing for mental health: the process of putting words on paper can aid cognition and brain function. Writing has a meditative quality whose benefits extend beyond feeling Zen. It turns out that sequential hand movements, like those used in handwriting, activate large regions of the brain responsible for thinking, language, healing and working memory. It’s also is a great way to normalize feelings so that they can be process more effectively.
Writing Creates Connection
Whilst we are more connected than ever digitally — many are feeling more distanced than ever. Having a pen pal can bridge this gap!
That’s because the act of sitting down to write a letter creates a mental shift. Just like a gratitude practice forces your brain to scan for the good, knowing that you have a letter to write forces your brain to scan for connections with the outside world.
“Picking up a pen slows you down long enough to remember the beautiful people in your life. The act of sitting down to write helps to fill your life with gratitude.”
– Richard Carlson, psychotherapist and author of Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff
How To Start
It might feel difficult at first to be writing to someone you don’t know. Our advice: just pretend like it’s a conversation! What kinds of things would you want to talk about to a stranger?
Take a few minutes, sit down, and tell them about yourself, tell a joke or a riddle, and let them know that they matter.
- Please make card or letters legible (large print) and handwritten, if possible. We also love pictures! Send them to Cards4Care c/o McCarthy Place : 200 McCarthy Road Stratford Ontario N5A 0B6
- Emails may be sent to Cards4Care@allseniorscare.com.
- Until you’re paired with a specific pal, try to write something that will resonate with anyone.
- Exclude the date (day, month, and year).
- Embrace creativity! Seniors love it when the words are personal. We encourage you to make your letters colorful and heartfelt.
- Envelope your letters if you can! It’s so much nicer to receive an enveloped card. If you’re sending more than 1 letter, leave your enveloped letters unsealed and unstamped and send them in a larger envelope
- A resident may want to write you back, so kindly put your mailing or email address on your card. Please understand that a resident may not want to write you back. If they do we encourage you to continue conversation; if they don’t, your letters are still highly appreciated.
- Send us as many letters, cards, pictures, or emails as you’d like!
At All Seniors Care, we believe that the more generations talk to each other, the better they understand each other’s perspectives and discover shared experiences. For that reason, we have a whole host of intergenerational programming. To learn more about All Seniors Care Living Centres intergenerational programs, click here and explore our web site!