Handwritten letters cheer isolated seniors on National Letter to an Elder DayJan 27, 2023 10:34AM ● By Marti Benson
There are many ways to make hearts happy during February.
American Heart Month educates us how to care for this mighty organ. International Flirting Week (February 12-18) celebrates “the first conscious step towards initiating romance.” Hubba-hubba! And, of course, there’s Valentine’s Day.
Celebrating National Letter to an Elder Day on February 26 is yet another way to do our tickers some good. It’s a delightful opportunity to deliver some bonus love to an elder in the form of an unexpected letter or card.
Reading heartfelt words and knowing that someone took the time to put them on paper is a powerful reminder that you matter to somebody. Likewise, the act of writing kind or encouraging words to another person is gratifying.
FRIENDLY LETTERS OF LOVE
The holiday was founded in 2020 by Jacob Cramer, who relished the time he spent with his grandparents growing up.
When his beloved grandfather passed away, he was heartbroken. Eager to honor his grandfather’s memory, the then-12-year-old decided to volunteer at a local senior living facility. At first he felt shy and out of place, but his conversations with friendly seniors drew him back.
With each visit, Cramer bonded with many of the residents. This exposed him to a painful truth: Many of them rarely received visits from family or friends, let alone any written correspondence. Although he provided temporary companionship during his visits, he knew his presence could not replace the continued support or love of family.
Cramer picked up a pen and began to write. He filled cards with kind words and sent them to his elderly friends and then to nursing homes across the country. His mission was to alleviate some of the loneliness experienced by isolated seniors. Buoyed by the response and encouraged by friends, he decided to take the initiative to the next level.
At age 13, Cramer founded the nonprofit Love for Our Elders. Now—10 years later—his organization has over 50,000 volunteer letter-writers worldwide. LoveForOurElders.org features people nominated by loved ones who would welcome some friendly mail.
LETTERS AGAINST ISOLATION
This organization is also dedicated to the healing power of the pen. During the pandemic, sisters Shreya and Saffron Patel held video calls almost every day with their grandparents in the U.K. On one occasion, their grandmother held up a letter she’d received and gushed over the piece of mail for nearly a week. The teenagers were inspired by their grandmother’s delight and they wanted to bring that same joy to other seniors living alone.
They contacted local care facilities and asked if there were residents who would be interested in receiving handwritten correspondence. Their inquiry was met with a resounding yes! Within a week, the sisters had their hands full getting letters to an astounding 200 seniors.
With the growing numbers of elders hoping for correspondence, the two women founded Letters Against Isolation, which now serves thousands of senior citizens in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia and Israel. As with Cramer’s website, the Patels also provide access to people who would enjoy being written to, and quite a few would love a letter in their native language. For more information, visit LettersAgainstIsolation.com
National Letter to an Elder Day is one we could celebrate all year long. After all, we are from generations that know how to write a good letter and remember the impact of receiving one, even decades later.
If you choose to write to a senior, here are some tips:
• Write legibly and print larger, if possible
• Be creative: draw something, send a photo or crossword puzzle, make it colorful
• Avoid writing about religion or politics
• Make an effort to write several lines
• Don’t use glitter