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Teens start nationwide letter-writing campaign to fight loneliness in senior citizens

Teens start nationwide letter-writing campaign to fight loneliness in senior citizens


Two Massachusetts teenagers have found a way to help senior citizens across the country feel less isolated during this time of social distancing.

Shreya Patel, an 18-year-old soon-to-be college freshman, and her sister, Saffron Patel, a 10th-grader, are calling their self-isolating grandparents every day to keep them safe during the outbreak of COVID 19.

“We were thinking about ways to help more seniors,” Saffron said.

The girls realized that without visitors or contact with the larger world, senior citizens may be lonely. Senior loneliness is a well-documented issue that affects both their mental and physical health.

Both girls are active volunteers and very interested in community service. They contacted a local nursing home about sending uplifting letters to the seniors living there. On April 6, they began writing and sending letters to the nursing home.

As others heard about the teens’ project, Shreya and Saffron received more requests for letters. When the requests outpaced their ability to write letters, the sisters started Letters Against Isolation and asked others to volunteer to write letters.

With the help of volunteers, the letter-writing project has grown to include 1,783 seniors across the United States who have received 4,162 letters written by more than 400 volunteers.

“I think everyone loves a good hand-written letter,” Shreya said.

Saffron said the project has helped some families rediscover the art of handwritten letters, which sometimes feels outdated when compared to texting and email.

Their efforts have expanded into Southern Illinois. They are sending letters to 700 seniors in Jackson, Alexander, Johnson, Massac, Pulaski and Union counties. They are working with the Illinois Commission for National and Community Service and Illinois Department of Aging to identify seniors who could benefit from a letter. Letters are delivered with their meals.

Now, Shreya and Saffron need your help to expand to more counties in Southern Illinois. They hope to include letters for 1,500 seniors.

Volunteers can sign up on the group’s website, Saffron said to look for the yellow form and fill it out.

The teens began interviewing the recipients of their efforts for a blog on their website. They were told the letters make the seniors feel like someone cares and loves them.

They believe the pandemic has not only made people more aware of senior loneliness. It has also united people across the country to find a solution. It has made them kinder and more willing to help.

“It’s important we find more volunteers. We need all the help with can get,” Saffron said.

Coming together while we're apart: Southern Illinoisans show support, love from a distance

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