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COVID-19 didn't stop these assisted living residents from speaking to people from all over the world

Adjusting amidst a pandemic has been frustrating for the 65 residents at Westminister Terrace, a senior living facility in Houston. But thanks to the support of the staff catering to its residents, the senior community is staying positive with recreational activities and virtual calls to connect seniors with their loved ones.

The new normal has been an adjustment for many. "Some of them choose not to go out and that's why they substitute going out with online ordering," shares executive director Hilda Ortega. "Our community offers beauty shops but unfortunately, the beauticians have been unable to come and that's also had a great impact on our residents who are used to doing their hair once a week." 
                
Although these circumstances aren't ideal, Ortega says there are ways that you can brighten the smile of a senior in a community near you. "Mental health is a priority and we want to make sure these residents are receiving some kind of affection," says Ortega. "Receiving a card will brighten their day—especially with being in lockdown since March."                                                                                              
Great news! There are many ways you can help spread some love to a senior near you, just like this assisted living community did in North Carolina.

Victorian Senior Care is in charge of 14 different facilities in North Carolina, and they've decided to use social media to their advantage. They've been finding their residents pen pals who share similar interests as them!

It only took a picture of a single resident holding up a poster saying “Will you be my pen pal?” to reach tons of people across the world. As a result, the seniors have been overjoyed, receiving letters from places such as Germany, Africa and even New Zealand. 

"They are overcome with joy when they see the mail," says Meredith Seals, the chief operating officer of Victorian Senior Care. "It's good to bring people together as much as we can."

"All you have to do is click through the images on the Victorian Senior Care Facebook page to find a senior to contact. Once you find someone whose interests match yours, click on their photo and their address will be in the comments!"

In Pennsylvania, Keystone Villa at Fleetwood is keeping residents entertained with fun activities like a socially distanced Independence Day BBQ and an outdoor concert.

While residents at another Keystone Villa branch located in Douglassville, PA are spending their time giving back to the community by packing thank-you notes and goodie bags for essential workers.

Want to give back to the community like the residents of Keystone Villa are? If you're looking to help out seniors during this difficult time, let us introduce you to a great non-profit organization, Love for the Elderly. This organization distributes cards from people like you and sends them to seniors in over 60 countries!

If you would like to make someone's day by sending a card through Love for the Elderly, here's what you need to do:

  • Write a letter or card in legible, large-print handwriting
  • Use your creativity to make the card cute and fun
  • Send your cards to the address below:
    • Love For The Elderly
      P. O. Box 24248
      Cleveland, OH 44124
      USA

*For more guidelines on sending a letter through LFTE check out their website.*

Rachel Lanman, the Program Coordinator at JCA Heyman Interages Center in Rockville, Maryland, has shown us how COVID-19 can't interrupt their program, which has been in-person for 30 years, bringing children and senior citizens together. COVID-19 hasn't stopped them from making connections between young children and older adults, it'll just have to be from a distance. This is how SHARE From a Distance was born. 


Image: Facebook.com/heymaninteragescenter

*Anyone* can participate in SHARE From a Distance by sending cards, notes, messages, artwork, poetry, origami and more! All you have to do is click HERE to fill out the google form to sign up—it's that easy!

What's so amazing about SHARE From a Distance is the warm cards and messages don't just go to people isolated in facilities, they can also go to people isolated at home. "The creativity we have seen from young people is amazing," Rachel says. "They've sent in crosswords, origami, sending joy to the older adults." 

"We need connections too," she says. "Making connections across ages is important. It's not just a one-sided thing, so many of us are feeling a loss of connection." 

Remember, seniors have been on lockdown since March, so they need extra loving during these trying times, but Kirsten Kim, a leader in the field of senior living for the past 19 years, shares that even something as simple as organizing a car drive-by with *super sweet* signs can be a great way to engage senior citizens with the outside world while maintaining social distancing guidelines. 

"Cards or letters are also great to have physically in their hands to help them readjust to the new normal," Kirsten adds. "It is really important to get them out of just the routine in the nursing home while keeping them engaged." 

There are so many ways you can be a shining light in a senior's life. 

What projects are *you* planning for the senior citizens in your community? We'd love to see what you're doing! Show us by tagging us @girlslifemag!

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by Samantha Dorisca, Emma Rose Eggleston and Hayley Miller | 8/11/2020
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