Nearly four months into a strict no-visitor rule due to the coronavirus, an assisted living community in North Carolina tapped into the power of social media to get its residents connected with people from all over the world.
To curb the spread of the virus, Victorian Senior Care, which manages 14 facilities in North Carolina, has implemented strict protocols to protect their residents, with one being a ban on visitors.
“It has been mentally straining on them not to see family members and loved ones,” Meredith Seals, the chief operating officer of Victorian Senior Care, told CNN on Wednesday. “When you are used to having family there every day and then you can’t, it’s very lonely for them.”
Isolation isn’t impacting only those at senior homes but many people around the world as the pandemic continues to change the way we are able to connect with each other. Seals said one of the administrators at a facility came up with an idea to match residents with others looking to make friends.
It only took one question for the post on Facebook to go viral: Will you be my pen pal?
Residents in the various Victorian Senior Care communities smiled for pictures while holding signs with their names and interests. Staff then shared the images on Facebook with the address of where to send the letters.
From sports to gardening to music, these seniors’ interests can be matched with anyone.
In one photo, a resident named Macy writes he is looking for a pen pal with interest in church, singing and playing checkers, because he is the current champion.
Ms. Judy says she loves cats and crossword puzzles, while Ms. Edna is looking for someone to chat about her favorite show, “Family Feud” with Steve Harvey. Another resident, Lenora, isn’t picky about what she is sent – she just wants to receive some mail.
“They are overcome with joy when they see the mail,” Seals said. “It’s good to bring people together as much as we can.”
The mail and packages are sanitized per CDC guidelines, Seals says, before being distributed to the residents. She added they have had no cases of Covid-19 and want to keep it that way.
Since this program started last week, mail and packages for residents have been received from all over the world including Germany, countries in Africa and New Zealand.
“We posted a world map in each facility and they are tracking where they are getting letters from,” she said.
She added that the residents are enjoying getting photos of pets and people. They are working to get a pen pal board added to each facility so residents can hang up pictures they get.
Anyone can send mail to the residents. People can click through the images on the Victorian Senior Care Facebook page to select a pen pal, and their addresses are in the captions.
For anyone having a hard time picking, the main office is collecting themed packages it will distribute to the appropriate residents. Seals asks that the sender write on the envelope what the theme is – for example, sports, veteran, dog, or crafts.
Those can be mailed to:
4270 Heath Dairy Road
Randleman NC 27317