Halfway through my spring semester of sophomore year at Yale College, I wasn’t ready for the pandemic. I struggled when I returned home to Cleveland after spring break, where I’d spend the next two months Zooming into class as the world grew painfully slow.

I wasn’t ready as an activist, either. Leading a nonprofit whose largest initiative involves mailing physical, handwritten letters of hope and encouragement to senior living communities, the pandemic challenged me. 

In a matter of weeks, my inbox was flooded with questions about the safety of receiving letters, quarantining procedures, and hundreds hoping to show their support by writing a letter.

Since I was 13, I’ve been penning these letters alongside volunteers under the name Love for the Elderly, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit meeting the critical needs of senior communities across the globe and sharing their stories. To date this year, we’ve sent 41,238 handwritten letters of love to senior communities in the U.S., U.K., Australia, and beyond. This work has taken on a new significance amid Covid-19.

“I’ve been struggling to get my residents to have fun as they have been sitting in their rooms with zero visitors allowed, even family,” said Maddie Goff, a staff member at Westchester Village in Lenexa, KS. “This means so much to me. My residents needed something just like this to brighten their days.”

Tracy Aiello, a staff member at Complete Care at Green Acres in Tom River, NJ, agreed, “[Love for the Elderly] is not only bringing letters to residents, it is providing hope and comfort. This is the most amazing thing I have seen.” 

At a time when it’s so much easier to only think of ourselves, seeing the impact of anonymous words has reminded me of the importance of embracing others, especially our elders.

Unfortunately, not all seniors can receive these letters right now. Reasons include country mailing restrictions, an abundance of caution, and being independent or homebound.

Hoping to safely send more love to more seniors, we teamed up with A Place for Mom to create Virtual Letter to an Elder Day on July 21. When seniors can’t receive physical cards, a video can brighten their spirits.

“Video messages to seniors would bring so much life into a community!” said Rachel Essmyer, resident services director at The Boulevard Senior Living in St. Charles, MO. “Letters are wonderful, but being able to physically see and hear a message is something so special!” 

Volunteers can donate their time by recording a TikTok-length video message (1-60 seconds) of love, hope, and encouragement. We’ll send your video to a senior isolated by the pandemic.

Learn more at lovefortheelderly.org/video

Senior communities can request letters at bit.ly/RequestLetters

 

Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, Jacob Cramer is a rising junior at Yale University studying cognitive science, focusing on language and development. At age 13, he founded Love for the Elderly, which he leads today with the mission of fighting loneliness with love for our elders.