I am running a new art and pen-pal outreach between the seniors at Windemere Nursing and Rehabilitation Center and children at West Tisbury School. The children and seniors write and draw for each other, with me as messenger when they are unable to meet each other face to face. Often my help is needed when in some cases seniors have lost the ability to hold a pen, but are still so very enthused to express themselves to the younger generation, that they dictate to me. Sometimes especially those with dementia, I listen to what they really want to express and we agree on what to write down - and it is these letters that possess such sentiment. With children, I sometimes help with spelling and handwriting if they want me to, but have found that what they need most is encouragement to express their individuality, and to remind them that people really do want to hear about what interests them personally.
The value of writing to each other is of such mutual benefit; more often than not the seniors haven't written to anyone for a long time, and the children perhaps never due to being 'plugged in'. Letter writing also encourages the use of cursive writing - some students are teaching themselves, when they are no longer receiving instruction at school, and seem to appreciate not only its beauty, but that writing cursive seems to help with what they write, reading, and also how they feel when they write, which has all sorts of positive implications for those with dyslexia, for instance, who find writing stressful. It is also interesting to note that both the children and the seniors often have the same worries about their penmanship!
For the seniors residing at Windemere receiving a letter written by a child accompanied by drawings, and then writing to the child is of such immense personal value and something they cherish and look forward to. The children too are always eager to hear if their letters and drawing have been received and cannot wait to get a response. They mutually feel so happy that their voice, their experiences, their words, and the feeling that accompanies them, are meaningful and can make a difference to a persons life, the children hoping to comfort and uplift, and the seniors being able to pass on their immeasurable experience, wisdom, and compassion.
So inspired by the beginnings of a new program, peruse the photographs below of old letters. So much warmth and heart is contained within them, never mind how many short or long they seem to be. Oh, it seems like an almost lost art here in the age of technology, something that hopefully we can help change in some small way...