Pen Pal Program Connects Seniors During Pandemic

Despite strict coronavirus lockdown orders, residents at a senior living community found a way to connect with their neighbors — through a pen pal program.

When GreenFields of Geneva closed much of its programming due to coronavirus concerns, Karen Tomko, life enrichment manager for independent living, wanted to keep residents engaged.

Tomko posted on her Facebook page asking whether any of her friends would be interested in exchanging letters with the residents. “There was an abundance of volunteers and a really good resident turnout,” she says.

Resident Helen Meints, 86, a former elementary school teacher, has been exchanging letters with four students and three moms. “It’s been a wonderful opportunity,” she says. “We [at GreenFields] felt very isolated. And so did the children.” Writing letters has helped her connect with younger generations, she says, and share pandemic perspectives.

As lockdown orders relaxed, Meints was treated to a special surprise. On her birthday in July, some of her pen pals visited her, bringing flowers and handmade cards.