Reviving the Age-Old Pastime of Letter Writing


With all the available options for communications in this modern, digitized world, mailing a letter seems like the least beneficial option. Isn’t it called snail mail for a reason? Email, video calls, cellphones and other digital ways to communicate make letter writing seem like a thing of the past — but it doesn’t have to be.

Letter writing used to be one of the few ways to communicate across distances, but now provides a more creative function. While letter writing in the past was like the main course, letter writing today is like the dessert — a little treat that comes with many rewards. There are a number of good reasons to revive the age-old pastime of letter writing, especially for seniors. So grab a pen, break out the stationary, and craft a message to a special someone in your life.

Benefits of Letter Writing for Seniors

From boosting cognitive abilities to staying in touch with loved ones, the benefits of letter writing for seniors are plenty. Below are four of the ways writing letters is good for your health and overall well-being.

Improves Memory Function

A study published in the journal of Psychological Science discovered that you’re more likely to remember something if you write it down on paper than if you type it on a computer. Handwritten letters that include information about your thoughts, what you’ve been doing, and how you’ve been feeling will help you better remember and process those things. This is particularly beneficial for seniors who may be struggling with memory capabilities. Similar studies also found that writing by hand boosts memory function, improves learning abilities, and makes it easier to retain information.

Invokes Nostalgia

Both writing and receiving letters can invoke feelings of nostalgia for seniors, since letter writing would most likely have been a popular activity during their younger years. For a senior who has dementia, writing letters might be a familiar and therefore comforting activity. It can be even more comforting for a senior who has dementia to receive letters. Letters help people feel that they are important to their loved ones and that they have not been forgotten in their old age. If a senior does not have the capabilities to write or read a letter, a home caregiver can assist by writing or reading the letter for them. Home caregivers can assist in other ways, as well, such as purchasing the stamps and depositing the letters in a mailbox.

Inspires Creativity

Letter writing can be quite the creative process. From choosing the paper to penning the words, you get to create something that is personal to you each step of the way. This creative process can help seniors maintain a sense of identity and independence — qualities that often become lost as people contend with old age and illness. Being creative instills confidence and can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. The simple act of writing a letter can give seniors a sense of purpose and something to look forward to. All of these things have a positive impact on a person’s quality of life. If seniors need assistance, a home caregiver can help by offering options for stationary and pens, facilitating trips to purchase the materials, and making suggestions for writing prompts.

Reduces Loneliness

Writing and receiving letters is a personal way to communicate. Letters provide something tangible and tactile to hold onto as keepsakes. Letter writing is a way to help someone feel valued and to feel valued yourself in return. Staying in touch with loved ones in this way can help seniors feel more connected to their friends and family members, reducing loneliness. This is important because the symptoms of loneliness can have devastating effects on a senior’s health — loneliness correlates with increased risk of heart disease, accelerated cognitive decline, depression, decreased immune response, inflammation, increases in stress and atypical hormone levels, and disruptions in sleep patterns. Writing letters is a simple, affordable, and creative way to reduce these symptoms.

Home Caregivers Can Help

Many seniors do not have the cognitive or physical capabilities to write letters. Home caregivers can help in many ways, such as transcribing the letters and offering encouragement during the process. Like letter writing, home caregiving is personal and meaningful, allowing people to maintain their independence by living out their senior years within the comfort of their own homes. Home care services can be uniquely tailored to the specific needs of each person, providing for the best quality of care.

For more information, please contact Alegre Home Care at one of our Northern California locations.

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