The culture in the United States surrounding the older generation could use some improvement. We tend to disregard or ignore the elderly once they reach past a certain age. Maybe it has to do with how our capitalistic society values instant gratification and usefulness over experience and knowledge, or maybe we don’t like reflecting on our own aging.
The elderly have a lot to offer in terms of wisdom, companionship, and intellect, however, that’s not the only reason to keep them in the spotlight of our society. They are human beings who need connection like the rest of us. For that reason alone we should make sure they are supported socially.
It’s important to remember that just because you dropped grandma off at the old folks home, doesn’t mean that she is feeling social and happy. You may need to go the extra mile to visit her, or at the very least, make a pen pal friend. That’s what’s happening in nursing homes now thanks to a special program with a boost from Katie Couric.
Nursing home residents recently pushed for a campaign to lift their spirits while the coronavirus makes it so they are in complete lockdown, unable to see anyone from the outside. The campaign is focused on writing letters to the elderly residents. They can expect a lot more letters from people after Katie Couric endorsed the program.
Katie Couric, the former TODAY anchor, promoted Victorian Senior Care’s pen pal program on her instagram account. Victorian Senior Care is located in Asheboro, North Carolina. Her caption wrote: "This is such a great idea! If you love sending snail mail - this post is for you! Victorian Senior Care, a retirement and assisted living home in Asheboro, NC, started a pen pal program for friends to write to their residents and residents of other assisted living centers in the area."
Victorian Senior Care has 14 locations all across North Carolina. They started their pen pal program several weeks ago and it has become a huge hit for many of the residents. Gwen Shough is a medical technician supervisor at a Victorian Senior Care location in Asheboro. She told TODAY, "We've had an extraordinary amount of people reach out. We've had residents get letters from 48 states in one day. It's amazing."
The program started by residents of the facility posting photos on Facebook asking for people to write to them. The hashtag #vscpenpals was used to boost the program, and the resident at Victorian Senior Care included their interests so that people could make better connections with them. Shough said, "The residents are loving it. They're just astonished about how many people are responding so quickly and from so many different states."
Nine residents at Victorian Senior Care have participated in the program and have received thousands of letters. It is extremely important considering seniors are a vulnerable group when it comes to covid-19. All senior facilities have been in lockdown since the pandemic started, which means they aren’t allowed any visitors. Shoug said, “They're cooped up in here, and they can't see their families because of this whole coronavirus mess that's going on, so this allows them to communicate with different people who have the same likes they do.”
Other nursing homes have done other programs like bringing in therapy dogs or even celebrities to host bingo night. "It's just brought their spirits and their attitudes completely 180 degrees because they're getting to communicate with other people besides just the people that are here and work here."