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Pen pal program at Simcoe Manor is a success for the books

May 15, 2020   ·   0 Comments

At a time when seniors are stuck indoors to stay safe from the novel coronavirus, a local long-term care home started up a program to boost social activity and reduce isolation.

At the end of March, Simcoe Manor began its pen pal program where school-aged children in the community have the chance to write letters to residents.

Once residents are assigned a letter, they then have the option to write back and forth, which creates positive connections between seniors and local youth.

“We find that it’s been very successful,” said Rose Athanassoulis, Program and Support Services Supervisor. “Residents not only like to write back, but also with the letters being read, they have this really big smile on their face and it sparks conversation.”

“We find out about the child writing and it even gives the resident and the staff members time to reminisce even about life events, just based on what they’re reading, which is really neat.”

The act of writing and receiving letters can be very nostalgic for many of the roughly two dozen residents who participate.

Athanassoulis said the program was started as a way to connect seniors with local children who were out of school after March Break.

“It’s was a way to increase socialization through letter writing and to provide our residents with the opportunity to still connect with the community in a safe environment,” she explained.

“We wanted to still maintain that connection, even still living in long-term care it’s important our residents connect with our community, but we needed to find a safe way to do that.”

Decreasing the intergenerational gap between youth and seniors was seen as another important aspect of the program, according to Athanassoulis.

“We really want to show younger generations the value of giving back and helping during this time. I know that we’ve had teachers who have reached out to us as well who want their children to participate.”

A few elementary school classes have wrote to the Manor as an assignment and some youth in the community have taken the project on themselves, as an act of kindness.

“It’s a great assignment for them during this time and it’s really great to see the relationships develop,” Athanassoulis enthused.

While the majority of letters being sent to the long-term care facility are written by kids, teenagers, and adults are encouraged to send in letters as well, if they are willing to have a written dialogue with seniors; although, some letters that are sent in are just well wishes and words of encouragement that aren’t designated to start a discussion.

To submit a letter, address it Simcoe Manor at 5988 8th Line, Beeton, ON L0G 1A0 or email with a typed version.

All letters are quarantined for 72 hours and disinfected to ensure the safety of residents.

Athanassoulis said the program will continue as long as letters continue flowing into the long-term care home.

“Thank you to all of those who have written to us thus far and thought about us at Simcoe Manor, we’re grateful that we have people in the community who are thinking about us during this time,” she said.

By Sam Odrowski
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

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