Pandemic Penpals: Let’s Connect our Kids with the Elderly During Lockdown

Over the past 18 months, Mum Central have seen first-hand how much Australian kids are struggling through lockdowns. We see it every day in our homes and across our online community of over 840,000 parents. Through the personal stories, the daily struggles and our parents voicing their fears about how lockdown life through this pandemic is impacting their kids. That’s what drove us to launch Pandemic Penpals.

We see our kids bored, creative ideas to keep them entertained and off the screens slowly drying out, and patience wearing thin. We see it first-hand, right before us, as we battle through the lockdown boredom and social isolation together as a family.

But here’s the thing. So many people are unable to be with the ones they love through all of this. They are going through this alone.

Aged care residents are one of the hardest-hit communities for lockdowns, social isolation and simply missing out on the little things that we used to take for granted.

They are missing out on watching their own grandkids grow simply because they are in lockdown. And it’s not just the grandkids they are missing. It’s social interaction. Going to the shops, out restaurants or simply taking a stroll in a park.

Our young generation is struggling with boredom at home too.
Our older generation is struggling with social isolation in aged care.
So let’s do something about it.

Let’s do something to inspire creativity, literacy and kindness in our children and to put much-deserved smiles on the faces of our older generations.

Introducing Pandemic Penpals

OUR GOAL: To connect children with aged care residents through letters. Yep. Snail mail. Just like we used to do ‘back in the day’.

This is the first time we at Mum Central have done something like this but we would really love to see as many people get involved as possible so have launched the Pandemic Penpals Pilot Program to see what impact we can help to make in the community around us.

And joining us is so simple and easy to do.

How to get involved

We are calling out for kids around the country to select a pen pal from the profiles below. Then they can choose to write a letter, draw a picture or paint a painting.  Think of it as adopt a grandparent, if you will.

Shortly you’ll meet our first 8 amazing people. They’re Grandmas or Grandpas , Nannas or Pops. They all have different interests and are from different backgrounds.

But they do have one thing in common.

They all live in aged care and are in lockdown.

More commonly:

  • They live in Victoria at Arcare Knox or in New South Wales at Arcare Glenhaven, Arcare Oatland or Arcare Warriewood.
  • They are all feeling isolated, lonely and ready for this lockdown to end, and most importantly,
  • They would all LOVE to receive a special letter, card or picture from a new pen pal.

Here’s what you need to do to get involved:

1. SELECT YOUR PEN PAL: With your child, review their profiles below and then pick one they would like to correspond with.

2. WRITE A LETTER OR DRAW/PAINT A PICTURE:  Spend a few minutes helping them to write a letter or make a card, painting or drawing. We’ve tried to build a little profile on each resident so that they can incorporate this into the activity. Perhaps write them a story or draw them a picture of their favourite thing. Share a joke, poem or tell them about what they do at home.

And while they are at it, why not also get them to write a letter to their own grandparents who are probably also really missing the cuddles right about now!

3. MAIL IT: Once you’re done, simply address your letter to them at the address on their profile (you’ll find it on the mocked up envelope graphic under their profile) and post via Australia Post standard mail. Your letter will then be handed directly to your Pen Pal and we can promise you, it will make a world of difference to their day.

There is something so lovely about receiving a letter in the post (especially when it’s not a bill or bank statement!) Even more so when it’s written by a new friend!

For those who are homeschooling, perhaps this can become an art lesson? Weave it in as part of their day and just imagine how wonderful it’s going to be upon receipt of their letter.

Feel free to pop your return address on the back of your letter or painting so that if, and while not guaranteed, we do know that some of our recipients will be writing back. No promises, but you never know! Imagine that!

With all the negativity impacting morale and positivity around us, we know this is one activity that is sure to brighten their day.  So join us and get your child’s creativity flowing, focus on paying the joy forward and help foster new friendships.

Where to send your letters

We’ve listed each resident’s full postal address on their profile to simplify the process. Don’t forget to WRITE YOUR NAME AND ADDRESS on the letter/back of artwork if you would like them to consider writing back! (replies are not guaranteed)

child with letter for pandemic penpal
Imagine the look on their faces as they receive a letter from their new penpal. Source: Adobe Stock

mum central

valda quirk pandemic penpals

Valda Quirk, 94
Arcare Knox, VIC

Fave colour: Blue, Green or Orange
Hobbies: Knitting
Family: 1 daughter and 2 sons
Loves: Dancing, Travelling, Weak lemon and lime bitters, Chocolate
Childhood memory: I was happy when my Grandmother would take me out to visit my Aunties houses in Warburton and Newport. They would spoil me. I loved going with her.
Career: Jobs I’ve had throughout my life: Tailoring, Hand sewing in Chapel Street, Sports craft sewing and in the Office, Arnott’s Biscuits, Filling Artists paint tubes, Moe TAB, Armadale TAB
Fun Fact: Always hard working and going to dinner dances

Please send Valda’s Pandemic Penpal letters to:

mum central

yvonne miller pandemic penpals

Yvonne Miller, 91
Arcare Knox, VIC

Fave colour: Blue
Hobbies: Dancing and Ballet
Family: Born in SA, got married and moved to VIC. The youngest with two older sisters. Has 1 daughter and 1 son.
I really love: Animals, White wine, coffee, cheese and biscuits
Favourite subjects at school: English, Sport, Home Economics, Social studies
Fun Fact: My First job was at Miller Anderson selling clothes to rich ladies

Please send Yvonne’s Pandemic Penpal letters to:

mum central

june gillet pandemic penpals

June Gillet, 90
Arcare Knox, VIC

Fave colour: Blue
Hobbies: Ipad, Music, Playing cards, Movies
Family: No kids
Loves: Collecting statues of cats. Favourite singers – Shirley Bassey, Mantovani. Chocolate and potato chips
Childhood memory: I didn’t enjoy school much. I remember in the war years carrying a little bag with ear plugs for the raid sirens and parts of the school had sand bag walls in case of bombings.
Fun Fact: I have two different coloured eyes!
Did you know … I travelled around Europe working different jobs, a friend rang me to ask for help running a bed and breakfast in Scotland so i moved there to help.

Please send June’s Pandemic Penpal letters to:

mum central

mum central

Mervyn George Halligan, 84
Arcare Glenhaven, NSW

Fave colour: Green
Hobbies: Restoring antique furniture
Family: 6 kids ranging from 56-33 years, 8 grandchildren, 1 great-great-grandchild
Loves: My favourite drink is a Bloody Mary.
Favourite things: Good food like Asian cuisine. Water activities like fishing or visiting the beach. Woodworking
Did you know … I used to be a Gemologist. It was my favourite job. I also used to own birds – my daughter is taking care of them now.

Please send Mervyn’s Pandemic Penpal letters to:

mum central

judy colliver pandemical penpals

Judy Colliver, 88
Arcare Knox, VIC

Fave colour: Blue
Hobbies: Knitting, Painting, Using iPad
Family: 3 Daughters
Loves: Going for drives in the country, having a BBQ. Loves swimming in pools or at the beach. Caravanning. Enjoys white wine, tea and chocolates.
My career: I’ve done secretarial roles all my life. My favourite work experience was at the Swinburne Mechanical Engineering Department
Favourite times: Going for drives in the country and having a BBQ

Please send Judy’s Pandemic Penpal letters to:

mum central

mum central

Trevor Dean-Jones, 93
Arcare Warriewood, NSW

Fave colour: Blue
Hobbies: Painting and Drawing.  I used to enjoy building dollhouses and model farms for my children and grandchildren
Family: 3 children and they are all now retired. I am very proud of them.
My career: I was the first member of my family to attend university. I later worked as a school counsellor and retired early due to state government rules and received a 30-year medal.
Favourite times: I used to enjoy fishing at Lake Macquarie with friends. But now I enjoy staying artistic and creative.

Please send Trevor Pandemic Penpal letters to:

mum central

joan stoke pandemic penpals

Joan Stocks, 91
Arcare Knox, VIC

Fave colour: Blue
Hobbies: Gardening
Family: 1 son
Loves: Daffodils, roses and flowers. Whiskey or red win and going to church dances
Fun Fact:  I have a wicked sense of humour!
Career: I worked as a Butcher’s assistant and was involved in the Red Cross

Please send Joan’s Pandemic Penpal letters to:

mum central

fay berogna pandemic penpals

Fay Berogna, 86
Arcare Knox, VIC

Fave colour: Red
Hobbies: Reading
Family: 3 daughters and 1 son
School memory: My favourite subjects were – Music – History – Maths – English – Social studies
Loves: My family. Tea and fruit.
Career … A memorable experience for me was working in Nursing and helping others
Fun Fact:  I have always been hardworking and eager to learn.

Please send Fay’s Pandemic Penpal letters to:

mum central

Want to get involved?

As mentioned, this is a Pilot program to test gauge community feedback. We have a pretty clear (and BIG) vision of where we would like to take this.  If you’d like to get involved in this or any future program we do, simply reach out to us here and we’ll be in touch with you soon!

We can’t wait to see all the amazing artwork and letters that these wonderful residents receive.

Avatar of Jenna Galley

Born and raised in Canada, Jenna now lives in Far North Queensland with her tribe. When the mum-of-three is not writing, you can find her floating in the pool, watching princess movies, frolicking on the beach, bouncing her baby to sleep or nagging her older kids to put on their pants.

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