Digital Exclusive: Pen pals for seniors during COVID-19

Digital Exclusive

MOUNT CARMEL, NORTHUMBERLAND COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — “You just wouldn’t believe all the different things that people do. The one person told me he’s a time traveler. I said ‘I gotta see this guy’,” Sandra Machuzak, a resident at Mount Carmel Senior Living Community, said.

During the pandemic many people, stuck at home, found new hobbies and activities to do. Residents at Mount Carmel Senior Living Community are taking this opportunity to make new friends from around the world through writing letters.

“A lot of the residents are getting, you know, anywhere, 15 to 20, the residents that were posted. The posting went viral. They have an overwhelming amount of pen pals,” Patti Moser, LPN, said.

The pen pal program began three weeks ago, and residents have already recieved over 1,000 letters. The letters are postmarked from all over the globe.

“Scotland, France, South Africa, Hawaii, California, right here in our home town,” Moser said.

She says no one expected the program to go viral.

“We’ve reached over two million people that it reached out to. We never assumed that. We just thought we’d get a couple of pen pals for the residents,” Moser said.

“I’m really surprised that so many people take their time out to write to us because you know it takes time to write a letter. I did some yesterday and it took me the whole afternoon,” Machuzak said.

Staff help the new letter writers respond. The letters have come from people of all ages.

“I write about what I”m interested in, what type of activities that I like and if I have an animal or something,” Caroline Roth, another resident at the home, said.

The letters help the residents, who are at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 and have limited contact with people, get their spirits up and brighten their day.

“It’s lonesome because we can’t get visitors. And my brothers are all out of state, so I don’t get that many visitors anyway. But it’s lonesome,” Machuzak said.

“I’m happy to spread myself out to be a part of the community,” Roth said.

Staff ask those who wish to join the pen pal program to be patient for a response as the residents are responding to as many letters as they can per day.

“Keep the pen pals coming. We love to hear from everybody,” Roth said.

You can find out how to join the program here.

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