Resident Sybil Bottomley is eager to take part in the Pen Pal program. Picture: Dominic Elsome
Resident Sybil Bottomley is eager to take part in the Pen Pal program. Picture: Dominic Elsome

Pandemic pushes Pen Pal project to help elderly residents

A RETURN to pen and paper is helping aged care residents in the Lockyer Valley beat loneliness amid new coronavirus restrictions.

With Chief Health Officer directions in place greatly limiting the number of guests allowed to visit aged care facilities, keeping social has become more challenging.

At Tabeel Aged Care, Laidley, letter writing has come back in style.

Adjusting to the reality of the coronavirus crisis, the facility has brought in strategies, which include launching a Pen Pal program where community members are writing, scanning and emailing through letters to share jokes and drawings with residents.

Lutheran Services’ Creative Programs Adviser Clare Apelt said Tabeel’s creative programs had to get “extra creative”, given new restrictions.

The dance program – now suspended – has resulted in the makings of a Pen Pal program.

“They’ve set up a pen pal exchange for the children and the residents,” Ms Apelt said.

But the program comes with a modern twist, embracing technology to avoid spreading germs and speed up the delivery process.

“They’ll photograph the letter or pictures and then they’ll email it to the co-ordinator,” Ms Apelt said.

“And that’s then shared with the residents.”

The program invites community members to write, too.

“It’s evolving as we go but if people do want to have a pen pal relationship with a particular resident, that would be fantastic,” Ms Apelt said.
“It’s a project that’s responsive – it is for people who already know (residents) and those who want to reach out and be connected.”

Already, residents have expressed an eagerness to pick up a pen and write – and receive letters.

“Having the external program shut down and not being able to see the dancers or even their family much anymore, it’s hard on the residents,” Ms Apelt said.

“And these interactions are joyful and make them smile.”

Anyone interested in becoming a penpal can send a scan or photo of their written letter to contact@lutheranservices.org.au with the topic titled ‘PENPAL’.