Elderly residents confined to their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic could soon find a message of hope in their letterbox – and potentially make new friends.
Older Australians are at greater risk of developing mental health issues due to fear of the disease, limited social activities and potentially going weeks without seeing family or friends.
That’s something Sydney aged and disability care provider Your Side is trying to prevent.
Most of the people the organisation takes care of aren’t digitally savvy and need help remaining connected to the outside world while they’re unable to leave home.
“Trying to transition into a digital world in a very accelerated way actually increases anxiety for a lot of our clients,” Your Side chief executive Danielle Ballantine told AAP on Wednesday.
“It reinforces that sense of not having control over anything.
“So we thought of some ways to help manage that anxiety is to revert to the things that actually bring them comfort.”
They are now pulling together a network of pen-pals to keep the elderly company from the comfort of their homes.
“We all remember the joy of going to the letterbox and getting a letter and hearing a person’s story and then sitting down and writing back,” Ms Ballantine said.
“It’s a familiar process and it’s one that brings joy.”
For some, it could be the only social contact they have for months as governments and citizens grapple with the pandemic.
“We see clients who may be disconnected from their families, or may live far away from grandchildren , or they’re in an older age bracket and they’re seeing their friends pass away,” Ms Ballantine added.
“This gives them the opportunity to rebuild or expand their social network.”
People wanting to become a pen-pal can email email@example.com.
Last week Sydney-based lawyer Beck Tidswell revealed she’d put out the call on Facebook for pen-pals to write to her grandmother in England.
“I just thought maybe a couple of close friends would be like, ‘Oh yeah, we’ll send something’, and then when I got so many responses I was just absolutely shocked,” Ms Tidswell told AAP on Friday.
“Grammy’s pretty excited. I don’t think she understands the scale of it yet.”
According to experts, coronavirus can live for up to 24 hours on cardboard, so thorough hand-washing is recommended after handling mail.