The first was about an elderly woman who sat alone in her house for years after much of her friends and family had died. She lived in fear and loneliness, until one day she wrote a letter to a woman that she didn't know who lived on the same street as her. A desperate act to reach out to another human being for companionship, and made a good friend.
The story was heart breaking.
Quote (in part): "This past spring, Marleen Brooks, a 37-year-old property manager in the small town of Park Hills, Mo., came home to find a handwritten letter from a 90-year-old woman she had never met.I have always had a great love for the elderly, having grown up with ALL my great-grandparents, grandparents and great aunts and uncles who were all very close. We saw each other weekly for much of my childhood and when that didn't happen, we wrote letters and sent cards. Cards for special occasions and those "just thinking of you" type cards. As the years went by and my elderly family members passed away we found my cards and letters saved in drawers bundled together with elastic bands. They had saved them over the years. I now have those cards and letters and look upon them fondly. I miss having those elderly people in my life and writing those letters and spending time at the store picking out just the right card to send that I thought would put a smile on their face.
It was just a few lines:
'Would you consider to become my friend. I’m 90 years old — live alone and all my friends have passed away. I am so lonesome and scared. Please — I pray for some one.'
As Brooks read the letter, her eyes teared up. Her own grandmother, who had raised her, had died alone in hospice, which still bothered her. The letter-writer, Wanda Mills, had left an address — a house across the street and a couple of doors down. “I literally, honestly didn’t know anybody lived there,” said Brooks, who has lived on the street for a year and a half.
The next day, she and a friend brought cupcakes to Mills.
“She was excited that we came over there, and we sat and talked for about an hour,” Brooks recalled. Mills, who has trouble walking and uses oxygen, told her that she hadn’t left her house in seven years and relies on caregivers who come daily. But they weren’t the same as having friends.
Mills had lived in the house for 51 years. Her husband and sister had died, as had one of her sons. Another son lived out of state. It turned out that a third son lived next door but didn’t visit often, she told Brooks.
Loneliness and isolation have been shown to have detrimental effects on health, leaving people more vulnerable to infection, cognitive decline and depression. An AARP survey found more than one third of older Americans to be lonely."
With today's technology of instant email connections and Facebook posts, I wonder how many elderly get any physical "snail mail" that they can hold and save for years in bundles with elastic bands. How many children and grandchildren today spend time at the store picking out just the right card to bring a bit of happiness and joy to an elderly person in their life? Breaks my heart to think the numbers are quite few.
Today I saw yet another article about lonely people on Twitter. This time it wasn't about just the elderly, but all ages.
People are watching videos of other people eating while they eat so that they can feel less alone during meals. Another is watching Harry Potter movies because the characters "feel like a family". Another made up an imaginary boyfriend to talk to when she's lonely.
All this social media instantly available globally and yet people seem lonelier now than ever before.
I wish these lonely people would think about the elderly. Read that article about Wanda Mills the elderly woman desperate to make a friend. They wouldn't be so lonely if they remembered our elderly and made the smallest effort to reach out to them.
What a difference every person could make if they reached out to ONE elderly person!
There are many "senior pen-pal" type organizations out there, the one mentioned in the first article above Pen Pals for Seniors Facebook Page, and Become a Pen-Pal to a Senior to name just two.
Another option is reaching out to a elderly person or couple in your neighborhood. Send them a card for no other reason than to say "hi" and you're thinking of them.
You can also reach out to a local assisted living community and ask if there are any people there who never get mail and would like to.
What about the elderly in your parish?
Perhaps you could start a program getting children in your parish to reach out to the elderly with cards, pictures they draw and letters?
Take a look around you and really see the elderly in your life, parishes and communities. They are lonely and depressed needing a simple greeting card to make their day and bring them great joy!
For less than the price of a cup of coffee you could bring happiness to a lonely human being nearing the end of their life living in isolation and loneliness. A simple act of decent human kindness goes a long way.
Julie @ Connecticut Catholic Corner