Pen-pal project will connect isolated seniors and middle-school students

·1 min read

A pen-pal project in Penticton, B.C., is reviving the old tradition to make connections between generations and also help reduce the social isolation many seniors are experiencing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

About 50 Grade 6 students from KVR Middle School will become pen pals with residents of the Cherry Park Retirement Residence, with plans to exchange regular notes and letters through the school year.

"It's a bit of a retro throwback," Adam Goodwin, social development specialist for the City of Penticton, told Daybreak South host Chris Walker. "Pen pals used to be really popular."

The pen-pal project is a spin-off of a wider civic initiative to help Penticton become recognized as an age-friendly community.

"Older adults are telling us they want more opportunities for social interaction," Goodwin said. "There were growing concerns around COVID and pandemic and social isolation."

More specifically, Goodwin said, seniors expressed interest in opportunities for intergenerational activities and learning.

Kayla Irwin
Kayla Irwin

Steve DeVito, the principal at KVR Middle School, said the pilot project "just seemed like a great way to connect them with folks socially, without actually coming face to face."

The program will be part of the curriculum, with teacher support to help maintain the momentum and plans for virtual meetings and online games as the students and seniors get to know each other.

DeVito said he expects students to gain as much as the senior correspondents from the experience, "just through those relationships and through gaining perspective and seeing things through the lens of a different age group in our community."