Otsego County’s Office for the Aging has launched a pen-pal program to help keep local senior citizens from feeling isolated as the coronavirus pandemic extends into winter.
“I think what we’re struggling with is so much is going virtual now,” Office for the Aging Director Tamie Reed told The Daily Star on Friday, Oct. 23. “We have so many seniors that don’t have that capability. So we want to help them from feeling isolated.
“Fortunately or unfortunately, we’re going back to what works,” she said.
Reed and OFA has begun conversations with local schools and with seniors they interact with to try to set up student pen pals for the county’s isolated senior citizens. She said they have been calling seniors who get at-home meal delivery or other services through OFA to see if they would like a student pen pal. However, any Otsego County senior citizen is welcome to participate, she said.
“We’re trying to find safe ways to keep them connected,” Reed said. “I think the goal is to connect the dots for them.”
Since OFA put out a notice for the program on social media, the calls and messages have been coming in from local teachers, too, she said.
Reed said OFA is asking the students to stay engaged for at least three letters. The age of the students will determine how much they are asked to write. Younger kids may do drawings or other artwork instead, she said.
“I don’t care how old you are — when you see a picture a child has drawn for you, it makes the day better,” Reed said.
Reed said her office deals with a lot of cases of seasonal depression in the winter, so the timing of the program is geared toward what could be a double dose of isolation.
“Unfortunately, now we are going into the winter months and we all know about the winter blues,” she said.
“It is not always so obvious,” she continued. “This is something that sometimes sneaks up on people. So if we can get a hold of this now that would be a good thing.”
To participate call OFA at 607-547-4232.