By Chris Bavender
Connecting the younger generation with the community’s seniors is the goal of a new club at Carmel High School. The Connections Club plans to do that through a pen pal program with the goal of helping people feel a little less alone.
The idea for the club came about because of the pandemic.
“My mother and I had done some work with a local nursing home in the past, but because of COVID (we) haven’t been able to (any work) because of the intense restrictions,” said club founder and co-President Allison Miller, a sophomore at CHS. “My family and I were all at the dinner table discussing how awful and alienating it was for the seniors because they couldn’t leave their own rooms to visit one another.
“That’s when my father and I began talking about a way to make life a little less lonely. From that, an inkling of Connections Club was born.”
At first, the idea was for the club to connect via video chat. But after encountering obstacles, members switched to a pen pal format.
“We are in the beginning of our relationship with a memory care facility named Story Cottage,” Miller said. “I reached out via their website, and they answered. From there, we exchanged calls and set everything up.”
With restrictions being eased, Connections now plans to host a Christmas party in early December for the residents at Story Cottage.
“We’re hoping to have some great games of cards, enjoy the music of the season and maybe even make an ornament to decorate,” Miller said. “Something that I’m hoping will work out is the idea of the long-term almost ‘buddy’ system where the student would hang out with their pen pal to take that long-term relationship further, especially because of the memory issues.”
Miller hopes club members and those they correspond with forge not only relationships but a feeling of being connected.
“Having a friend outside of your family or your normal friends can just make everything feel more full, or at least that’s been my experience,” Miller said. “I can only speak to how I’ve felt connecting with senior citizens in the past, but I hope everyone can feel the warmth and new understanding I feel. As for the seniors, I hope it brightens their day. All the time I hear from the people who work in nursing homes how much being around young people makes them feel happier, and I hope our club can contribute to that. Above all, I hope that everyone has fun with it.”
Senior living facilities interested in joining the Connections pen pal program can learn more by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.