Care home joins young people’s penpal scheme

A care home in Ixworth has been keeping its residents connected with young people during the pandemic by joining a letter-writing scheme.

The Beeches Residential Home joined the free YOPEY penpal scheme with the aim of helping its residents feel connected at a time when social isolation is likely to increase.

YOPEY traditionally runs befriending schemes where young people visit care homes but had to put these on hold during the coronavirus crisis.

Despite visits stopping during lockdown, the charity and its young volunteers wanted to continue to support the elderly care home residents at a time when they needed it the most, so decided to start a letter-writing scheme.

Feedback from residents has been extremely positive, with one resident commenting: “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed having these letters to read, it’s fantastic to hear what the youngsters are up to and I always look forward to the next one.

“They also send us quizzes, crosswords and word searches that have been really enjoyable and have kept us busy.”

Bev Shave, deputy home manager at The Beeches, has described the befriending scheme as “an opportunity to give some love and receive some love.”

She commented: “With everything else that’s going on in the world currently, the scheme has been a beacon of hope for our residents during lockdown.

“Creating and maintaining social connections with our younger generation is key to supporting the mental wellbeing of our residents and in turn helps them to age well. We wanted to keep our residents connected with young people, as we see the many benefits that it brings to them.”

All letters are emailed in packs to the residents at the care home, illustrated with photos of the young people, their hobbies and their artwork.

The charity’s young volunteers are also making shows especially for the elderly that care homes can be viewed on the internet. So far five YOPEY Virtual Variety Shows have been posted on YouTube and received hundreds of views.

YOPEY’s founder Tony Gearing MBE commented: “Before the pandemic we had about 150 teenagers visiting a dozen care homes. During lockdown we have been able to recruit hundreds of more young people, aged from 4 to 26, and sent out thousands of letters to hundreds of care homes.

“When regulations allow volunteers to visit care homes again, we hope homes like The Beeches will consider joining our befriending scheme.”

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