Letters can be a great means of breaking through social isolation.
Posted in , Oct 11, 2021
Positive and heartfelt words, even from those we don’t know, can open up a world of connection and help to quell loneliness. For older adults who are unable to get out and about, reading letters can be a means of battling the blues and establishing new relationships. The fact that connection is crucial has become all the more apparent as the issue of social isolation has been pushed to the forefront. It’s no secret that loneliness takes a toll and that older adults face particular challenges, which have been exacerbated by lockdowns.
The potential health effects of social isolation are serious. They range from higher rates of depression and anxiety to increased risk of dementia and premature death. So, it’s important for you as a caregiver to find creative ways to help your loved one stay connected with others. One way to broaden social connection is via letter writing. To that end, a number of organizations, from assisted living facilities to home care agencies, have initiated pen pal programs for older adults, some in partnership with school-age kids. A few examples:
If you’d like to get your loved one involved in a pen pal program, or wish to write to an older adult yourself, consider contacting your community’s assisted living facilities, in-home care agencies or senior centers. If a facility has an activities director, you may want to start with that person to get a sense of what sort of interest there is. You may find one older adult who wants to receive letters, or several. If you get involved and enjoy the process, you may even want to recruit friends and family members to establish additional connections.
Facilities will likely screen letters, but it’s important to always keep safety and security in mind. Make sure, for instance, that your loved one doesn’t include in snail mail letters or on websites his or her full name or other personal or identifying information. This sort of information includes: mailing address, date of birth, social security number, internet passwords, financial information or travel plans Also make sure that your loved one never sends money or compromising photos to anyone.
The simplest of actions, if sincere, can have great value. When someone puts thoughts and feelings into writing and reaches out to an older person, it can make a real difference. It could be the first step toward forging a meaningful relationship or at least making someone smile.