Graduation Year

2022

Graduation Month

May

Document Type

Professional Paper

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

School or Department

Communication Studies

Major

Communication Studies

Faculty Mentor

Adam Collins

Faculty Mentor Department

Music

Keywords

Elderly, loneliness, pen pal, intergenerational, global connection

Abstract

In an effort to both analyze how COVID-19 has impacted traditionally isolated communities and prevent loneliness, we have created a pen-pal program between UM students and senior adults. We have implemented a pilot pen-pal program to create lasting social bonds without exposing seniors to COVID-19. The program is currently running through the Davidson Honors College “Intro to Honors” course, with plans to leave the program self-sustaining in future semesters. To pair partners, we distributed interest surveys and matched relevant interests. To inform people of how loneliness affects seniors, we created a brochure that highlights our research, with plans to distribute it in the Curry Health Center and among our community partners. At the conclusion of our pilot program, we will have our senior partners fill out a feedback form to understand the effectiveness of our program.

Our research points toward the need for loneliness prevention strategies, especially in the wake of the pandemic, which has exacerbated social isolation in older adults. Social connection has proven to be one of the most successful mitigation techniques, but physical contact can be dangerous because of the pandemic. Dialogue through letter-writing can create invaluable social bonds without potentially exposing elderly participants to COVID-19. The senior participants in our pilot grew up writing letters and communicating via physical mail so the pen-pal program was extremely comfortable to this generation. Pen-pal programs create a viable and sustainable solution, accessible for all generations to reduce the negative effects the pandemic has had on the elderly.

Honors College Research Project

Yes

GLI Capstone Project

yes

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© Copyright 2022 Hailey Powell, Addie Slanger, Mazana Boerboom, Brenna Spurling, and Maria Goheen