WOODSTOCK — No matter your age, receiving a handwritten letter is a special thing. While most communication is electronic-based these days, local seniors and students are taking time to get to know one another the old fashioned way. Residents of Woodstock Terrace Assisted Living and fourth-grade students from Woodstock Elementary have been putting pen to paper as part of a pen pal program established between the groups. The students are matched with a senior, and they exchange one letter every few weeks. Though the pen pals have never met before, they’re establishing a relationship with people they wouldn’t normally encounter on a day-to-day basis, and they are using their unique experiences to positively impact another person’s life.
Woodstock Terrace Assisted Living resident Millie d’Entrement has participated in the pen pal program for several years and loves interacting with the students, and she enjoys exposing them a generation they may not talk with on a regular basis.This intergenerational connection is bringing joy to two very different age groups in Woodstock, both organizations report. While kids today might not receive or give many letters due to the popularization of electronic communication, this activity teaches children the importance of the written letter and how special it can feel to give and receive one.
“The kids are so adorable and ask the cutest questions, like our favorite color and if we have pets,” said Millie d’Entrement. “I think it’s nice that the kids have a chance to interact with us, because I imagine we’re much older than some of their grandparents, so I think they can learn about us and get to know a group of people they may not ever have the chance to meet in their daily lives.”
The pen pal program is not only an opportunity for the students to learn more about a senior in the area, it is also an educational opportunity for them to practice letter writing. The students are often given writing prompts to help generate ideas for their letter. Oftentimes, the kids will make cards or draw pictures to send to the residents along with their letter.
“I’m always looking for intergenerational connections our students can make with the outside community. In my experience, these connections are extremely valuable and positive for the children,” said Erin Klocek, counselor for Woodstock Elementary. “The kids get so excited to write their letters or make drawings for their pen pals. They are so eager to receive the letters from the residents that they often stop me in the halls to ask about them. They like to read their letters aloud to one another and share what their pen pal told them with the other students.”
While the two groups have yet to meet, they hope to meet each other before the end of the school year.