A North Carolina retirement and assisted living home has started a pen pal programme for its residents and residents living in other nursing homes in the area. A group of residents took to social media to ask for letters to help boost their spirits. They posted on Facebook photos of themselves holding up a mini-bio about them and their interests. They have since received thousands of personal postcards, letters and even gifts. Some of the residents even received letters from 48 states in one day! It gained momentum after former news anchor Katie Couric shared the pen pal programme on her Instagram account.
This is such a wonderful idea to help combat loneliness which can be all too prevalent in nursing homes and amongst the elderly community, especially during the coronavirus pandemic which has meant they have not been able to have visitors. Social interactions, even in the form of writing letters, is crucial to our wellness – both mentally and physically. There is lots of evidence to suggest that people who are more sociable actually may be more likely to live longer. This is because socialising is linked with a more efficient immune system than can fight off illnesses better, and even some types of cancer.
Having social interactions is also incredibly beneficial to your mental health as it boosts feelings of wellbeing and reduces loneliness and symptoms of depression. There is also research to suggest that socialising is good for your brain and can even decrease the risk of dementia! Conversely, those who experience feelings of loneliness can witness an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular disease, strokes, feelings of depression and increased stress levels.
It’s so great to see thousands of people reaching out to offer support and friendship to those who need it the most. If you would like to help here in the UK, the charity Age UK has lots of schemes and opportunities to do so – you can take a look HERE