Quills to Connect
Quills to Connect is a pen-pal program that seeks to build meaningful connections between youth and seniors through the familiar medium of letter writing. Youth can share stories and drawings to brighten up the seniors’ day while seniors can provide youth with much needed moral support through their rich life experiences. This program can act in conjunction with in-person volunteering as a way for volunteers and seniors to interact on their own time. Senior loneliness is an ongoing problem in care homes. Loneliness has been shown to increase the likelihood of depression and cognitive decline as well as worsen physical health markers such as hypertension, obesity, and stroke. (1) Additionally, 42% of seniors living in long term care facilities exhibit feelings of loneliness compared to 10% of seniors living independently. (1) The Covid-19 pandemic has further exacerbated these issues. Many senior homes were forced to cancel in-person visits and social events, leading to increased loneliness and detrimental health effects. Although technology and social media have been used to compensate for the lack of physical contact, this medium is sometimes inaccessible to seniors due to a lack of devices and unfamiliarity with the technology. Social isolation is also a prevalent issue among younger individuals that can have detrimental effects. Although many adolescents are able to connect with their friends and family through social media, solely relying on social media for interaction and communication has been shown to increase an adolescent’s risk for developing symptoms of depression. (2) Additionally, the Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated these issues as social distancing measures leave youth with few options for safe communication with their loved ones. With many plans and routines disrupted, depression and anxiety in youth increased dramatically. (3) Quills to Connect provides youth with a non-digital avenue for social connection and interaction. Letter writing is a medium that can still connect youth and seniors without needing to go online. Additionally, interactions between youth and seniors could be mutually beneficial. Studies have shown that youth who interact with seniors develop a better sense of purpose and understanding of self, likely due to being able to learn from a senior’s rich life experiences. Likewise, seniors who interact with youth have been shown to have felt more enrichment within their day to day lives due to being able to “give back” to their community, leading to more positive mental health outcomes. (4) References: 1. Simard J, Volicer L. Loneliness and isolation in long-term care and the COVID-19 pandemic. Journal of the American Medical Directors Association. 2020;21(7):966–7. 2. O'Keeffe GS, Clarke-Pearson K, Media Con Cand. The impact of social media on children, adolescents, and families [Internet]. American Academy of Pediatrics. American Academy of Pediatrics; 2011 [cited 2022Jan7]. Available from: https://publications.aap.org/pediatrics/article/127/4/800/65133/The-Impact-of-Social-Media-on-Children-Adolescents 3. Nicole Racine PD. Global prevalence of depressive and anxiety symptoms in children and adolescents during COVID-19 [Internet]. JAMA Pediatrics. JAMA Network; 2021 [cited 2022Jan7]. Available from: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/fullarticle/2782796 4. Hidden in plain sight: How intergenerational relationships can transform our future [Internet]. http://longevity3.stanford.edu. [cited 2022Jan7]. Available from: http://longevity3.stanford.edu/hidden-in-plain-sight-how-intergenerational-relationships-can-transform-our-future/
Signatories: Jenny Zhang, Shiley David, and Meagan Kimbrell
Advisor: Maria Anna Salazar Capinpin
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