Reviving the Lost Art of Letter Writing: Benefits of Becoming a Pen Pal with an Older Adult

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Ahead of National Pen Pal Day on June 1, Home Instead shares the impact that writing a letter can have on both the writer and recipient.

The digital world offers many ways to stay connected with each other. Social media allows us to share pictures and keep in touch. Video calls help us celebrate special occasions with distant family and friends. However, we shouldn’t overlook the importance of other more traditional ways to connect, such as letter writing. For many older adults, a letter can be a simple yet meaningful act of kindness, especially for a senior recipient who has spent much of the pandemic apart from loved ones.

While writing a letter is a small gesture to spread joy and prevent loneliness, fewer and fewer Americans are engaging in this dying art. In fact, in the past five years, 50% of Americans have not received a personal letter. In a recent Home Instead survey, U.S. and Canadian respondents said they found kind acts that required little money or effort to be the most meaningful. Though most said they hadn't received a greeting card or letter in the past two months, 84% of those who did found the gesture to be "very" meaningful.

“Loneliness is one of the most devastating issues facing our aging population, but it's also something we're capable of addressing," said Erin Albers, vice president of social purpose at Home Instead. “A personal letter to an older adult could change the trajectory of their day. It doesn’t need to be long, just written from the heart.”
Receiving a letter in the mail is often a welcome change from quick phone calls or infrequent visits from loved ones. Older adults often agree that receiving snail mail from a loved one or a stranger can boost their mood and offer inspiration during challenging times.

“When I sift through my mail and see a letter addressed to me, I get a flurry of excitement and surprise,” said Emily Hall, who is 80 and lives in Alabama. “It’s not every day I receive a note in the mail, but when I do, it’s often from one of my lovely grandchildren or an old friend.”

Letter writing can offer many benefits to both the letter writer and the recipient. Albers shares four reasons to consider setting aside some time to write to an older adult:

  • A letter can be a meaningful alternative to an in-person visit. Not seeing friends and family is tough, especially for those in hospitals or nursing facilities where visiting hours are limited. While nothing is the perfect substitute for time spent together, letter writing can be a creative way to help older adults stay engaged and connected.
  • Regular correspondence can improve your relationships. When we rely on our phones and text messages to convey deep love and appreciation, feelings can get lost in translation. Writing and receiving thoughtful, intentional letters can help you learn more about yourself and the person you’re writing to as well.
  • A letter is something you can treasure forever. Text messages come and go, but a letter is a tangible memento you can hold on to for as long as you like. Re-reading a letter, even several years after it was sent, can offer a good reminder to reflect and remember what’s truly important.
  • Snail mail can bring a smile to someone's face. Words have the power to bring hope, encouragement, and comfort during hard times. A kind note from people who care can go a long way during a challenging or lonely day.

Connecting in this intentional, personal way isn’t a thing of the past. Whether you’re younger or older, taking the time to write a letter can have a significant impact on the recipient. For lonely seniors, it may be among the few cherished interactions they have.

If you’re inspired to do something for the aging adults in your community, consider becoming a pen pal. Visit to learn more and get involved.

Honor and its Home Instead network are expanding the world’s capacity to care. Founded in 2014, Honor is the world’s largest home care network with the most-advanced care platform revolutionizing how society cares for older adults, their families, and Care Professionals. Honor acquired Home Instead in 2021, and the combined company supports the work of more than 100,000 Care Professionals across 13 countries and meets the growing needs of millions of older adults and their families worldwide. For more information, visit and

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Dan Weiberg