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Teens Tackled Senior Isolation With 460,000 Letters

In 2020, the world came to a screeching halt in a sweeping act of human solidarity against COVID-19. It became clear that seniors were among the highest risk from the disease. Unfortunately, protecting our elders meant staying away from them. Older folks are already more prone to loneliness than other age groups, and sadly the pandemic exacerbated the feeling of isolation many seniors experience.

Sisters Shreya and Saffron Patel, 16 and 18 at the time, recognized the issue with their own grandparents early in the pandemic. So, they made a point of calling them frequently. But when their grandmother shared how “ecstatic” she was at receiving a handwritten letter from a friend one day, they got an idea. “This small gesture of connection meant the world to her. We realized that many other seniors may also be feeling disconnected, and that they may appreciate a letter.”

Shreya and Saffron reached out to local assisted living facilities and care homes in the Boston area to ask if it would be okay if they sent residents letters. The responses were enthusiastically positive. Demand quickly outpaced their own ability to write letters, so they decided to organize and invite others to join them.

They dubbed their collective letter-writing effort Letters Against Isolation (LAI), and the idea quickly took off. What started as two sisters writing letters has now grown into an award-winning non-profit organization. In just over two years, LAI’s 28,000 volunteers have written more than 460,000 letters to seniors at assisted living homes and care facilities in seven countries—the US, Canada, Ireland, England, Australia, South Africa, and Israel.

The feedback from those who work in care facilities speaks to the power of these letters. Christine, activities director at Shepherd’s Care Foundation said, “It is such a pleasure to deliver your letters to our residents. The honor of being on the receiving end of their surprise and delight when we get to say to each of them, ‘You have mail!’ Their faces are priceless, and their hearts are so warmed by your kindness … on their behalf, my most deep and sincere gratitude."

Senior recipients have also expressed joy at getting the handwritten notes. “They really made my day,” said Florence after receiving her letters. “I keep them and I read them every day. The letters took me back to when I was a teenager receiving love letters!"

Possible Preaching Angle:

Shreya and Saffron have helped thousands spread thoughtfulness and kindness to fight the pandemic of loneliness. What a beautiful way to connect people and for younger generations to let older folks know they are not forgotten.

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