Illustration by Kaylee Stout / The Sunflower
Elderly homes and care facilities have been in shut down mode since the pandemic started. The elderly populations are lacking social connections but KMUW wanted to help.
KMUW Wichita’s Public Radio Station has partnered with four facilities: Wichita Presbyterian Manor, Grasslands Estates, Regent Park Assisted Living & Memory Care and ComfortCare Homes to bring community members together through a pen pal program.
“We decided to help connect our listeners, and readers and other community members with residents at retirement homes and other senior homes in Wichita,” Karen Galindo, the Engagement and Development Intern who organized the project said. “So that they can foster new relationships with one another and create new friendships during this time of social isolation.”
This idea has been in the works for quite awhile, but now is the perfect time to bring it up. Haley Crownson, the Community Engagement Coordinator, knew that this is the time.
“This project has been percolating in our minds since the start of the pandemic,” Crownson said. “KMUW focuses this past year have been how to bridge people politically, and because of the pandemic, combating loneliness.”
They first got the idea when an older individual sent in a letter comparing their experience in the pandemic to their experience with WWII. Crownson then started looking for ways they could bring this same concept to reality.
“This older generation has so much wisdom that younger people could definitely learn from,” Crownson said.
She wants people to still communicate even though face-to-face isn’t always an option right now.
More than 85 people have signed up, ages vary all over. KMUW will soon start connecting people and send out prompts for the pen pals to write about.
“I think the cool thing about the application process was that we asked people for some information about what they like,” Crownson said. This way they can partner up people based on their likes and dislikes.
It’s a real life pen pal acting as a bridge to bring people together in the times of Zoom fatigue.
“It’s such an experience that people don’t think that they get much out of, but they really do . . . writing can be therapeutic sometimes,” Galindo said.