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News & Events
Seniors Share their Insight and Wisdom with Pen Pals
Did you have a pen pal when you were younger? You were connected with a service that sent you the name of another child similar in age. Pen pals were within a couple hours of your town or they might have lived in Germany. With the advent of the internet, you might think that pen pals are a part of the past. But you’d be wrong. Pen pal services are still out there for both active seniors and young people.
At Westminster Village, most seniors have a busy lifestyle even if they’re no longer working at a job. But, even if they participate in a lot of activities, writing to someone they don’t know can be satisfying and enjoyable. Many of the connections made through a pen pal service are for older adults writing to younger children or even college students. Young children benefit from writing to someone outside of school. They can practice their skills on a willing participant. You have wisdom and insights that you could offer to a college student who might be struggling with their classes or their daily life.
If you’re a single active adult, writing to someone that you’ve never met can be cathartic or add to the activities you already do. Learning about someone new through writing can be fun. If you have a pen pal in another state, region or country, then you can learn about a new culture or traditions. You can write to pen pals through the U.S. mail or through online email.
Seniors should be careful in picking pen pal websites
You can find several pen pal websites or services online. People offer website services just for women, for older adults to connect with youth, and for adults to connect with adults. But, as with anything on the internet, do some research to find the best one for you. Some sites look more like a dating website for adults. If that’s what you’re looking for, then there are some that seem secure and safe. But, if you want to simply write to a younger student or another senior with similar interests, you can find those services, too.
The best thing to do when using an online service is research, research, research. Check to see who has set up the service. Look at the intent of the site and make sure it matches your intent. You don’t want to get hooked into a site that sends you hundreds of emails from “creepy” individuals.
When connecting with someone online, never give them too much information. Don’t give out addresses or telephone numbers. Never tell them that you live alone and never share financial information. If someone asks for money, wants personal information or talks about things that make you uncomfortable, don’t continue the association. Never agree to meet or visit a pen pal. Some people will lie about who they are or become negative after a while. Even if you must change your email address, don’t continue to deal with these people.
Active seniors choose pen pals through a familiar association
One way that you might ensure that you have an enjoyable and safe experience is to find pen pals through a familiar organization. If you are a member of a club or service organization, check to see if they have a pen pal group. If you belong to the Kiwanis, maybe you can write to a member of the Kiwanis in another state. Even if your organization doesn’t offer a chance for pen pals, check to see if there’s an address list or a way that you can choose someone and ask them if they’d like to be a pen pal.
If you attend conferences or classes that invite people from other areas or around the world, see if they offer ways to connect with others. But, remember that even if you’re writing with pen and paper, you should still consider the safe guards of a good writing experience.
Another good option might be to partner with a teacher or school. Teachers are always looking for ways to connect students with the community and real experiences that can teach many things beyond just an academic skill like writing. Contact the principal at a local school to explore this option. (It is safer for seniors than online options, too.)
Pen pals don’t have to live in another country or region. Maybe they’re right there in your back yard at the local university like Purdue University is close to Westminster Village retirement community. College students, suddenly away from home for the first time, might enjoy connecting with someone that has already lived the life they are experiencing.
The other great thing about writing to pen pals is that you do it on your own schedule in the privacy of your own home. If you are an early morning riser – you can write then. The same if you are a night owl. You set your own time frames.
No matter how you select your pen pal, choose wisely, and enjoy learning from and sharing with a new friend.
-Elaine of the Westminster Village Blog Team