Long Live Snail Mail! Lonely Seniors Get Thousands Of Letters Thanks To Pen Pal Program
Word spread like wildfire when nursing home staff shared posts about the project – a celeb even gave them a shout out on social media!
Getting an email is great, but nothing compares to the joy of getting an actual letter. There's something more personal, and more meaningful, about holding a piece of mail in your hands and visualizing the person who sent it.
That's why Victorian Senior Care facilities in North Carolina put out a call on social media to connect pen pals with their residents who have been suffering from loneliness and isolation during the coronavirus pandemic.
Staff members at each nursing home helped the seniors pose for photos with posters that had their names and a short list of their hobbies and interests. The photos were shared to Facebook along with the addresses of the facilities.
Ms. Hattie loves men and snacks. Who wouldn't want to be her pen pal? Victorian Senior Care/Facebook
After only two weeks, the program has been a smashing success.
The social media posts were shared hundreds of thousands of times, and residents have been getting stacks of letters and gifts every day. Children's drawings, photos, stuffed animals and sports paraphernalia are just a few of the mementos the seniors have received from folks all over the country.
Eddie might live in North Carolina, but he's a diehard Pittsburgh Steelers fan! Victorian Senior Care/Facebook
The seniors and staff are overwhelmed by the amount of support they have gotten since starting the project – they even got a nod from former Today Show anchor Katie Couric. Couric shared some of the residents' photos on her Instagram page and called the #VSCPenPals program "a great idea."
The staff at VSC has been working overtime to post updates and share photos of the seniors opening their notes and packages. Residents at the Asheboro facility alone have each received thousands of letters.
"We've had an extraordinary amount of people reach out," Gwen Shough, a medical technician supervisor at the Asheboro location, told TODAY. "We've had residents get letters from 48 states in one day. It's amazing."
Since the pandemic started, most senior centers in the country have stopped allowing any visitors, with the exception of licensed medical personnel, to enter the buildings. The pen pal program is helping to keep seniors connected with the outside world and the letters give them something to look forward to.
Each resident posed for a photo with a poster listing their name and a few interests and hobbies. Victorian Senior Care/Facebook
"It's just brought their spirits and their attitudes completely 180 degrees because they're getting to communicate with other people besides just the people that are here and work here," Shough said.
Staff members say the residents are taking the project very seriously and they're planning to stay in touch with every person who sent them a letter.
Ms Janice, who's 102 years old, has received hundreds of letters since the program started. Victorian Senior Care/Facebook
"It's like a relationship they're building with other people,'' Shough said. "They've already got all their stamps ready to write people back."
What a sweet story of people spreading kindness to others, even though they've never met. Sign up to be a pen pal today!