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Pandemic pen pals

CHRIS LOWREY
SHAWVILLE April 22, 2020
Seniors in long term care homes are one of the most isolated communities and with a global pandemic restricting the movement of the general public, they’re even more isolated now.
But thanks to a single Facebook post by Tubman Senior’s Home Director, Trish Tubman, residents are giving a new meaning to social distance.
Tubman issued a call for anyone who’d be interested in being pen pals with a resident to send some snail mail to the care home and she and the staff would partner them up with residents.
“The response was overwhelming, fantastic,” said Tubman. “The post was shared, last time I checked, 110 times.”
What has resulted is an influx of letters from people all over the place, from Alberta to Newfoundland.
“This is the generation of the pen pals,” Tubman said of the residents enthusiasm to participate.
And those residents are receiving all kinds of surprises in their correspondence.
“There’s been way more than just letters,” Tubman said. “People are sending pictures with their letters and the seniors absolutely love it. Some of the little kids will draw pictures for them”
The photos give the residents a face to put to the words and the artwork brightens their rooms. Although some residents have problems with their vision, staff members are making sure nobody misses out on the fun.
If a resident needs help, staff will sit down with them and read them their letters to them and help them write responses.
Each of the 10 residents at the home now has four or five pen pals – who range in age from youngsters to retirees – to keep up with.
Although they’re using snail mail, the staff members at the home got a tip from someone in the public health sector that putting the letters in the microwave for 30 seconds should keep residents safe.
Tubman said she was getting to her wit’s end trying to keep the seniors entertained during this slow time.
“I always tell jokes to begin with,” Tubman said. “But there’s nothing to talk about anymore, the jokes are running dry.”
So the pen pal program came at a critical time to give both residents and staff a fresh dose of social interaction.
“It just brings a whole new tone,” she said of the mood in the home since the program started.
Letters can be sent to Tubman Seniors Home, 583 rue Main P.O. Box 1069, Shawville, Qc., J0X 2Y0. Locals can stop by the home and drop letters on the wicker chair in the front entrance.

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