News National Write a letter to an elderly pen pal to help them in coronavirus isolation

Write a letter to an elderly pen pal to help them in coronavirus isolation

Sydney woman Joyce has her pen pal letter read to her.
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Kind-hearted Australians are writing letters to the elderly as part of a nationwide pen pal program aimed at boosting social connections during the coronavirus pandemic.

To help protect vulnerable Australians from COVID-19, most aged-care facilities around the country are either in lockdown or have strict guidelines for visitors.

Those who live at home have been advised to stay inside at all times.

As a result, many of our elderly neighbours, friends, parents and grandparents are feeling confused and lonely while the nation fights to contain the virus.

To help safely connect the elderly with the outside world, a pair of women in Sydney have set up an online pen pal program.

Karen Buckley, a community engagement manager at Home Instead Senior Care at Bondi Junction, said the idea grew after a call for donations on Facebook.

“We posted on the Viral Kindness Eastern Suburbs Sydney Facebook page, then we started getting cards and emails of people wanting to connect with the seniors,” Ms Buckley told The New Daily. 

“It was absolutely beautiful.”

Within one week, a national pen pal program was born.

To limit the risk of virus transmission, the letters are only exchanged online.

Users can log in and type a letter using a template, or hand write and scan their own letter, then send it off to an aged-care resident.

  • Click here for instructions on how to send a letter

“It’s to give a cyber hug to people,” Ms Buckley said.

“It’s to say, ‘We’re thinking of you and you’re part of the community. You’re national treasures and we want to be kind’.”

An example of a handwritten letter scanned and printed for an aged-care resident in Sydney. Photo: Karen Buckley

Lou Rice, a member of the Viral Kindness Eastern Suburbs Sydney Facebook group and co-founder of the pen pal program, said the response had been “amazing”.

“Right now, people want to help and creating connections with people is the way to do it,” Ms Rice told The New Daily. 

But she added the elderly weren’t the only people benefitting from the program.

“It goes both ways – the residents are obviously shut off and don’t have access to technology as we do … and I imagine it’s very confusing and frightening for them,” she said.

Sydney woman Marlene receives a pen pal letter. Photo: Karen Buckley

“On the other side, for the members of the community who are writing the letters, it gives them a chance to feel connected to someone and that they’re helping.

“It’s as much for those people in isolation feeling connected to someone, whether they’re elderly or not.”