WHO WE ARE
Letters to Seniors is a 501(c)(3) organization with a goal of developing meaningful relationships between students and residents of assisted living facilities, combating the effects of social isolation and loneliness, and encouraging students to engage with members of their community.
Long periods of social isolation can have significant repercussions on physical, emotional, and mental health, particularly for the elderly, who already have higher percentages of loneliness than other age groups.
Under normal circumstances, elderly at assisted living facilities and hospitals are able to see family members and friends, partially mitigating the effects of social isolation; due to COVID-19 and subsequent safety precautions, many of these facilities are closed to visitors. As reflected in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, “older adults have fewer social interactions and a smaller social network than younger adults...having infrequent neighborhood contacts is related to higher levels of loneliness.” Restrictions on visitation in assisted living facilities, while important to prevent the spread of COVID-19, only increases the loneliness felt by the elderly. According to the National Institute on Aging, “research has linked social isolation and loneliness to higher risks for a variety of physical and mental conditions...people who find themselves unexpectedly alone due to the death of a spouse or partner, separation from friends or family, retirement, loss of mobility, and lack of transportation are at particular risk.” In an attempt to bridge the gap between the community and elderly living in assisted living facilities and local hospitals, we are establishing the organization Letters to Seniors. The program creates a pen pal system between college students and the elderly population in our communities, connecting them through hand-written correspondence, phone calls, video calling platforms, and, when safe, in-person events.
WHY LETTERS TO SENIORS?
Developing Meaningful, Long-Term Relationships
In contrast to similar letter-writing organizations, Letters to Seniors focuses on establishing a relationship between both people. Instead of a one-time letter, we’re mandating a minimum of one letter sent per month to encourage sustained contact. Additionally, we chose to target the communities we grew up in (the Bay Area, CA, and New York City, NY) because we wanted to create immediate, tangible change.
It was also important to us to reach out to seniors of different backgrounds and whose first language may not be English. We especially encourage volunteers who are multilingual or are learning new languages, so that we are able to communicate with seniors who speak different languages.