Sending love through the letterbox to ease lockdown loneliness

As care homes continue to remain closed to visitors under Alert Level 3 and 4, Bupa is calling for Kiwis to pick up their pens and crayons and write a letter or draw a picture for residents.

“Keeping connected and maintaining relationships are important to everyone’s health and wellbeing but even more so for older New Zealanders during lockdowns,” says Carolyn Cooper, managing director, Bupa.

Across the country, care homes are providing extra activities and video calling capabilities to keep residents connected with friends and families. But at Bupa we would love to provide residents with the extra joy that comes from receiving mail and so are calling for friends and whānau to get in touch via the post. For our residents without family we would love the public to send correspondence to their local care home.

“Receiving and sending letters is a really positive thing that anyone can do. From my conversations with residents I know how much joy it brings them. This is a generation where people often communicated by writing and while it’s not something the younger generations do, it’s undisputed that whenever any of us receive a letter or card in the mail it makes us feel very special,” says Carolyn.

For Dorothy Retter from Bupa Hillsborough Care Home, it’s always a thrill to open a letter, to see who it’s from and what news they bring her.

“Whether it’s family or friends it’s always quite exciting when a letter appears on my table. I think it’s really important that we keep on writing letters. I write letters myself because I think that people who are sick or who are lonely just love getting them and I get a lot of comments from people that I write to.”

Letters and cards have the added bonus of not being reliant on people’s ability to use technology, such as email or social media, like Facebook. It is also an easier mode of communication for the significant number of people (1 in 3) who suffer from hearing loss as they get older.

Bupa resident, June Ryan, finds letters to be a helpful way to stay in touch.

“I love receiving mail, particular from friends as they keep me up to date with what’s going on. It’s all very well to have a phone call but you can put the phone down and lo and behold you think of something you haven’t told them, but in a letter it is much easier then talking.”

“What is more, I feel that handwriting these days is something that’s been lost. And I think its lovely to have a look at everybody’s handwriting at times. Because it’s one way of expressing our feelings, in the way that we write,” adds June.

Vitolia Tauai adds that she mainly receives letters from her children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews. “I look forward to it as they tell me what they’re doing and how they’re going. It’s really important to me to receive these letters to see how they are…in this time of COVID-19.”

Carolyn also suggests that people send residents photos or pictures.

“Without doubt, all our residents love receiving photo updates or pictures. It helps people connect with what’s happening in the world, especially what’s happening with younger generations in the family,” says Carolyn.

“Not only do you get the initial enjoyment of receiving photos or pictures, but they can then be hung up in people’s rooms and shown around to their fellow residents, starting conversations.”

With all the kids at home at the moment, this is also a good excuse to get them involved and entertained. There are several creative ways they can share what they are up to with the older members of their family:

  • Create a lockdown day-in-the-life cartoon
  • Collages / pictures of their favourite lockdown activity
  • Even an update on what they have learned this week, book they have read or TV show they are watching

The full list of care homes and their address can be found on our website here. Either address letters to a specific resident or put c/o Lockdown Letterbox at the top. Our care home managers will then distribute your letters or drawings to our residents in most need of connection.