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Why having a pen pal is good for you

For most seniors across Australia, it's been weeks or even months since their last visitor. Isolated as a result of lockdown measures or personal circumstances, life looks far from normal for these older Australians at the moment.

Many of the teams that support aged care residents, like those at Feros Care residential villages, are keeping residents connected with a myriad of different virtual and online programs. From online gaming to virtual exercise classes, these options have been a great way for our seniors to stay connected.

But there is something wonderfully personal about the time and thought that goes into written communication that doesn’t involve email or text. Older generations are also much more familiar with traditional letter writing, a skill rarely used in the days when we rely on technology to communicate.

Tricia Tur discovered the power of putting pen to paper after she wrote to Doug, a Feros Care resident, as part of the Be Someone For Someone “1,000 Notes of Friendship” campaign. The initiative called Australians of all ages to write a heartfelt note of kindness, which we then deliver to seniors living in isolation.

“When I first heard about the initiative, I was interested because I’ve always loved to be in touch with the elders.

“I got my kids involved and it was really nice to sit down and write a letter together.”

The Tweed resident posted her handmade card, along with drawings from her children, without realising the impact of her gesture.

“I actually didn’t expect a reply so soon and I was so happy when I received one, it was so nice.”

Tricia was so touched by Doug’s reply that she wrote back, the first of many letters in their new pen-pal friendship.

“I don’t know him, but I already feel so connected and I’m looking forward to meeting him when I can visit.”

“His letter reminded me that sometimes little things can make everyone involved happy and grateful.”

In a world where 1 in 4 Australians feel lonely, Communications and Loneliness researcher Donna Henson says the solution could be just a note away.

“Communication really is the vehicle to intimacy, in all of the social connections that we have in our lives and with other people,” Ms Henson said.

“When that communication is written down in a letter, it's obviously recognition of someone out there that is willing to make an effort and to connect.

“And putting into words and on paper has a longer lasting benefit.”

820 million less letters were delivered around the country in 2019 than the year before. Communications experts are concerned letter writing could soon be phased out all together, taking with it the myriad of rewards that handwritten notes bring for both the writer and the receiver.

“For the writer, if they themselves feel in any way lonely, they take back a sense of control to their own situation.”

“By writing, which is obviously a much more intentional and mindful act than just speaking to someone, I think there is potential there to boost your own sense of esteem or develop those skills for connection.”

But we need your support to hit our initial goal of reaching 1,000 seniors To get involved, simply write a note, letter, or card of friendship and return it to us at:

1,000 Notes of Friendship Campaign
PO Box 585
Byron Bay
NSW 2481

We’ll personalise your letter and deliver it to a senior living in the community or a residential village.

The aim is to connect with as many older Australians as possible, with some sparking regular pen-pal relationships between seniors and people from all walks of life. Everyone, young and old, has the power to be someone for someone, and remind them that they’re not alone.

To find out more about the 1,000 Notes of Friendship Campaign, click here.

We’ve also answered all your questions, and included some letter writing tips here.

Join us on our mission to tackle loneliness, one note at a time.