If you don’t think a single letter can make a difference in the life of a senior citizen, consider the words of Piedmont Healthcare counselor Lauren Garvey, who says, “We know that being able to express how we feel and what we think impacts us on a cellular level. This is why writing has psychological, mental and physical health benefits.”
For elderly folks facing loneliness, those physical and emotional benefits are all that more crucial. If you want to reach out with your words, work with existing volunteer organizations or take the initiative to find senior pen pals in your own area.
Pen Pals for Seniors
A charitable organization based out of Farmington, Missouri, Pen Pals for Seniors is an online elderly pen pal program established in 2017 that serves more than 6,000 seniors. To ensure the safety of the letter recipients, PPFS vets each senior’s potential pen pal with a full background check before matching them with a letter-writing buddy. Once approved, you simply jot down anecdotes about your life, hobbies and passions and send them to the organization – they’ll make sure your letter gets to your pen pal.
To get started, apply at the PPFS website, where you’ll be asked to complete a background check and send in an introductory letter. Participating in the program is free if you’re approved, though there will be a small fee for the background check.
Love for the Elderly
Established in 2016 by then-13-year-old Jacob Cramer, Love for the Elderly is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that focuses specifically on connecting young students with elderly friends. In a twist on the traditional pen pal format, your letter is anonymous – the idea is simply to spread some love and positivity to seniors who may be experiencing loneliness.
You can write from anywhere in the world and send as many letters as you please. Once you’ve stuck your message in an envelope, simply send it to Love for the Elderly at P.O. Box 24248, Cleveland, OH, 44124, and Jacob and his crew will send it along with love.
More Ways to Reach Out
Finding senior pen pals online isn’t your only option. If a 13-year-old from Cleveland can establish an elderly pen pal program, so can you. Start by reaching out to your local nursing home or assisted living facility. Ask to speak to the activity director, who’ll know if any residents are in need of a pen pal or who may be able to gauge interest.
Once you’ve worked out details such as letter frequency and mailing address with the director, don’t hesitate to widen the net. If more than one senior at your local facility is interested in becoming someone’s pen pal, reach out to your friends and family to deepen your pool of writers and make an even bigger positive impact.
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- If you're concerned about your email address being listed on Craigslist for everyone to see, the site provides anonymous email addresses.
- Friendship By Mail is for women only.
With a diverse professional background and a decade of experience as a freelance writer, Dan has contributed lifestyle content -- from fashion to travel to fitness and more -- to publishers including Chron, Fortune, Sony, GlobalPost, ModernMom, Moviefone, Salon.com, Techwalla and dozens of others.