Intergenerational Pen (or Keyboard) Pals
The pandemic and its resulting social isolation have been hard on people of all ages. We can help each other through this time by sharing our strengths and our experiences—the resilience we have developed in our lives and what has gotten us through tough times in the past. Encouraging intergenerational pen pals can reduce isolation and increase resilience in people of all ages.
Adolescents and young adults—many of whom are facing a significant struggle for the first time in their lives—especially need to hear how others have dealt with difficult times. It can help them adjust to circumstances out of their control. When older adults, with their diverse life experience, share their wisdom, time, and encouragement, they build connections with new generations.
There are lots of ways to start an intergenerational pen pal activity. Organizations serving older adults can work with local schools or youth organizations to find and connect potential pals. Churches and recreational organizations serving all ages can also connect members of different generations. Individuals can reach out to long-distance relatives or even nearby neighbors they’ve missed seeing over the past year.
Here are some writing prompts to get the conversations started.
Distanced Outdoor Event
Seeing other people in person—even with masks on and from a six-foot distance—can offer a richer sense of connection and community than virtual gatherings. The CDC says that outdoor gatherings with plenty of ventilation, masks, and social distancing pose less risk of spreading COVID-19.
Here are some ideas for bringing members of your community together for a safe afternoon or evening of outdoor entertainment and socialization:
- Organize a game night. Contactless options like charades allow teammates to work together from a safe distance. For more ideas, try searching online for “contactless games for adults.”
- Hold an outdoor movie screening. Consider a comedy or other light-hearted movie. Sharing a laugh can bring people together. Make sure household groups sit six feet from other families.
- Coordinate a musical event. Music can help people to connect, heal, and much more. Hire a band, let participants show off their musical talents, or just play music from an app and let everyone make requests. Keep music levels down and encourage clapping and distanced dancing over singing and shouting.
Check out our event tip sheet for a fun and safe event!
Working together creates community, even when you cannot be physically together. Celebrate contributions of individuals and what your community can accomplish together by organizing a group project. Each participant can work individually before their work is combined to create a final masterpiece. All collection activities can be done without contact.
We suggest polling participants to see where their talents and interests lie, but here are some project ideas to get you started:
- Create a community quilt. Individuals can make squares on their own, which can then be sewn into a beautiful wall hanging or cozy blanket. The quilt can then be donated to a charitable organization or a community member. For tutorials, beginner patterns, and other ideas, search “how to quilt” on the Internet.
- Decorate a public garden or community walking path. Paint rocks with eye-catching designs and inspiring messages. Ask community members to paint their rocks individually, providing simple supplies, if possible. Then, collect them to display in your community.
- Establish a physical or virtual bulletin board. Fill it with photos, jokes, quotes, and/or good news from community members. Display in a public place or on your organization’s website.
- Plant a community garden of flowers or vegetables. Have participants plant in shifts to maintain social distancing or provide participants with seeds and a pot to plant them in at home. Collect all the potted plants to display together as one large container garden.
- Design a mosaic art project or mural. Each participant can take a turn adding their own touch. Don’t have a space that can be permanently altered? Use small canvases instead. Search “mini canvas collage” to spark your creativity.