In April 2020, the nation was cast into a circuit breaker, leaving many elders and youth lonely and depressed as they were unable to leave the senior care/residential institutions in which they were living and homebound. To prevent the spread of infection, visitors were scarce or not allowed at all, elders at senior care centres were homebound.
The elders and youth differ in several ways mentally and physically. However, the experience of loneliness is the same. Both elders and youths alike are vulnerable to the effects of loneliness and being separated from their friends and loved ones.
To address this, Acting Up has created a bridge of communication, outreach and support, to let them know that they are not alone. In these strange times of constant video conferencing and texting, what if we went back to writing letters?
Thus, Project Pen Pal was born. After matching elder homes/senior care centres with youth institutions/youth organisations, they began writing to each other, creating art and eagerly awaiting responses from one another. Each youth was partnered with one elder person, and every pair developed a supportive relationship through good ol’ fashioned letter writing. Youth started to learn about stories of the past while the elders learnt about how differently youth live their lives today. They were empowered with their ability to be there for another person even if they felt they did not have much at all. Most importantly, there were always words of love, support and encouragement.
Join us in continuing to make Project Pen Pal a success! You may participate in the following ways:
As social service organisation in the senior sector seeking to be partnered with pen pals from youth institutions/organisations
As a youth institution / organization seeking to be partnered with penpals from social service sector in the senior sector
As a sponsor / donor for the programme, to equip the institutions and homes with donations, postage and art materials
As an individual youth or elders seeking companionship through letter-writing
Acting Up will facilitate the matching process. For more details, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
An initiative by Acting Up, a social enterprise, has given an alternative for our elders to befriend through writing letters. Surprise reactions greeted our elders upon receiving their first letters in the week of 21st August 2020, and this was what the staff of St Luke’s ElderCare-Whampoa Centre had anticipated. Letters written by the residential youths of Boys' Town had given our elders the confidence to reply after comprehending its contents. With safe distancing measures being imposed, both St Luke's ElderCare and Boys' Town regard this as a safe social outlet without having the need to compromise. Our elders have benefited from receiving encouraging words, and in turn the youths have learnt the acts of compassion though the snippets of elders’ life experiences in the past. We hope that these penpals develop a meaningful companionship on an ongoing long-distance relationship as snail mail buddies. We thank Acting Up for this opportunity in pairing our elders with the residential youths of Boys' Town. The process of reading letters by our elders independently or through staff assistance, has duly strengthened their cognitive, language and writing skills but most importantly, the skill to reminisce. Therefore we welcome more of such collaborations. *as shown in pics, both elders reply two letters in the week of 28th August 2020
“The youths participating in the Project PenPal certainly learnt a lot from the experience of writing letters to the elders of St Luke’s elderCare - Whampoa Centre. With today’s technology, most of them are used to having internet access and sending/ receiving messages instantly. By having a penpal during this pandemic, it allows them to reflect and realise that there are people encouraging them to stay strong and healthy. It also provides an opportunity for them to encourage someone they do not know. The youths wrote the letters with thoughts and reflection and felt appreciated when their letters were replied to. Personally, it is heartening to see the youths put in the time and effort in writing the letters to the elders and give words of encouragement to them during this pandemic.”