National pen-pal program launched to help seniors stay connected

Many older Australians are feeling lonely and isolated as they’re staying inside due to the coronavirus pandemic.

To combat these symptoms, care provider Home Instead Senior Care is launching an electronic pen-pal program to more than 40 franchises across the country.

The program aims to connect members of the public with elderly Australians who are self-isolating in their homes or who are in aged care facilities.

"I think there is a great need for community relations during this time, particularly with our most vulnerable," Home Instead's Karen Buckley told 10 daily.

“This is about kindness and joy, and making these people still feel like valuable members of the community.”

The idea started when a local business offered to deliver toilet paper to elderly people in Sydney, and the gesture sparked interest on the Facebook page “Viral Kindness Eastern Suburbs”. Donations and notes were printed off and delivered to residents of Regis Aged Care Rose Bay.

"We trialled it locally in the eastern suburbs and within a few days, we got 20 cards, notes or emails," Buckley said.

From Thursday, a new Facebook page and website will be launched for people who want to be a pen-pal. You’re able to register as a sender or a receiver. The public are also able to send an email directly or scan and attach a handwritten letter, which carers will print and share to the elderly in their care.

"If there is a response, they will scan it and send it on accordingly," she said.

"Loneliness is emerging as big a threat as dementia for our vulnerable, elderly people," she said. 

"This crisis we are facing brings home the fact they’re even more limited in terms of community connectedness. They could be quite well but the social isolation -- though warranted -- is another barrier to them retaining that sense of community."

If you want to register for a penpal, you can do so here. 

This article originally appeared on Over60.