Nursing homes, assisted living facilities and other places that care for older people are asking the public to send cards and letters to their residents so they don’t feel forgotten in the new era of social distancing.
In a Facebook post last month, St. Anthony’s Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Rock Island, IL, issued a plea for more mail.
“If your children’s schools are closed and [you’re] looking for something to keep them busy, please consider having them write letters or color pictures and send them to our residents,” the post read.
Nursing homes, retirement communities and similar places are restricting visits from non-residents to help combat the spread of the coronavirus, which poses a higher risk of serious complications for older adults.
Cards and letters are seen as a safe method to stay in touch: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization and Surgeon General Jerome Adams have indicated there is no evidence that the coronavirus is spread through the mail.
Although some facilities for older people have stopped allowing visitors inside, USPS is working with the facilities on alternate delivery arrangements, including having letter carriers place mail in outside receptacles or having carriers hand the mail to a staffer outside.
The effort to get people to write to older adults is driven in part by social media users, including Kathleen Berezny, a Riverhead, NY, retiree who recently asked people to send cards and notes to her friend Bertha Kulesa, 96, who lives at a local nursing and rehabilitation center.
“It just takes a card and stamp but it means so much,” Berezny said, adding that she often includes a book of stamps with her letters to make it easier for the recipients to write back.
“It can encourage an exchange,” she said. “The art of letter writing is making a comeback.”
Likewise, “Saturday Night Live” cast member Heidi Gardner posted a request on Instagram for her fans to send letters to nursing homes.
“Senior citizens need our love more than ever right now. They are isolated and not able to be visited by loved ones,” she wrote.
Gardner included the image of a note she mailed to a care center in Iowa: “Hi, I’m Heidi. I wanted to say hello to you. I realize with the current state of the world, you may not have many visitors stopping by. So this is me ‘stopping by’ to let you know that you are loved and thought of.”