Penticton, B.C., pen-pal project between students, seniors stems social isolation amid COVID-19

Click to play video: 'Pen-pal project connects isolated seniors with students'
Pen-pal project connects isolated seniors with students
As the COVID-19 pandemic forces people apart, a new initiative in Penticton is helping to foster connections an old-fashioned way: letter writing. As Shelby Thom reports, a pen-pal pilot project is bridging generations and bringing joy to both young and old – Jan 14, 2021

Students and seniors in Penticton, B.C., are creating connection and community while staying apart during the COVID-19 pandemic.

KVR Middle School and Charles Manor Independent Living Facility teamed up to launch a pilot pen-pal program.

The initiative matched up 50 Grade 6 students with seniors and the pairs have exchanged letters and Christmas cards.

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“It makes me really happy to hear them being happy to receive letters because I know it’s been really hard for them being stuck inside and not being able to see their family,” said student Madelyn Meashaw.

Seniors at Charles Manor Assisted Living present the letters and cards they’ve received from their pen-pals at KVR Middle School. Shelby Thom/Global News

The correspondence is helping to reduce social isolation amid the pandemic as seniors face visitor restrictions and physical distancing rules.

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“The part I miss the very most is getting together with the family,” said Aggie Clarke, 94.

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“I think it’s (the project) one of the best things that could be, because a lot of these young people don’t know what old grandmas and grandpas are about at all, so I think it’s a real good idea.”

The pen-pal project is enriching the lives of these young people as well as they forge new friendships.

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“I think that especially during the pandemic because we are not allowed to hang out with friends, I’ve actually gained new friends from pen-pals,” Paisley Lafferty said.

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The pilot project is a spinoff of a wider civic initiative to help Penticton become more age-friendly.

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“There are not many opportunities for our students to get out there and connect, so to have the opportunity to do it virtually was such a great idea,” said KVR Middle School principal Steve DeVito.

The students went virtual by sending personalized videos to spread holiday cheer at Christmas time.

The initiative is helping to bridge generations by bringing people together while staying physically apart.

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“I think it’s one of the best things that could be,” Clarke said.

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“I’d like to get another letter from them and even get to meet them someday,” added Clarke’s sister, Juanita Conn, 88.

Organizers hope the exchange of letters and cards will continue for, at least, the rest of the school year.

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