A North Carolina-based nursing home facility is helping its residents connect with people from around the world, all thanks to a viral Facebook post that looked to match its seniors with pen pals who share common interests.
On June 25, Victorian Senior Care, which has several locations in North Carolina, posted on its Facebook page that it was looking for pen pals for residents in its Archdale assisted living and respite care home. The post was shared more than 13,000 times, prompting the senior living facility to seek out more pen pals for residents in its other locations across the state.
In the photos shared on Facebook, seniors are seen holding whiteboards describing their interests and asking for pen pals with similar hobbies to exchange letters with. In a photo, a woman is shown with a sign that reads, “My name is Linda. Will you be my pen pal? I like art, music and reading!”
In another photo, a man is seen sitting in a chair holding up a sign that reads, “My name is Alex. I like guitars and old rock music. Will you be my pen pal?”
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Countless people have expressed interest in the program on Victorian Senior Care’s Facebook page and have offered to send letters as well as gifts.
“I crochet blankets for hospitals and nursing homes. I have a few made already, but I'd love to send each one a handmade blanket,” one commenter wrote on a post.
“I’d be willing to write to any of them! This is such a beautiful and amazing gesture! Hopefully it becomes a trend in senior and assisted living places. Bless you all!” another wrote.
Meredith Seals, chief operating officer at Victorian Senior Care, tells Yahoo Life that she and her colleagues have been “overwhelmed with the response” they’ve gotten from those looking to participate in the pen pal program.
“There are so many people whom have reached out wanting to help, we are trying to respond to everyone quickly but having trouble keeping up. [It] warms my heart that so many people care,” she says.
Seals says that Victorian Senior Care locations have been restricting visitors all of their facilities since March 13 due to the coronavirus pandemic and had been looking for creative ways to keep residents’ spirits up. She estimates that residents have received over 15,000 letters along with items like craft supplies, snacks, stuffed animals, jerseys, books, tablets and more.
Rheeda Walker, a clinical psychologist, tells Yahoo Life that people who are disconnected from family can experience feelings of loneliness and depression, regardless of age.
“Overall, the pen pal relationship would be a positive one for a community of seniors,” she explains. “One would not assume that developing a pen pal relationship would work for everyone, but the overall impact would be meaningful especially in a time of social isolation – to know that someone is ‘thinking about you’ can give an otherwise isolated life a bit more meaning.”
Walker adds that pen pal relationships would not only be beneficial for those receiving the letters, but also for the people writing the letters in developing meaningful connections. She also notes that the quality of these relationships is more beneficial than the quantity.
Seals says that the seniors are excited about their new pen pals and hopes the program can continue.
“We would like to keep this going as long as we can,” she says. “Connecting people together is an important part of what we do. Our seniors have incredible experiences to share and we want to help them get their story out.”
Those interested in writing residents can visit Victorian Senior Care’s Facebook page to find out where to send letters.
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