Around the Island

Richard’s Almanac: Students write seniors

Pretty soon Island seniors will have the opportunity to correspond with students in the Island elementary school. A “Pen Pal” program will be put in place for students in kindergarten through fifth grade to write letters to older folks.

Senior Center Director Laurie Fanelli told me that she already has more than 20 senior citizens signed up to participate. According to school superintendent Brian Doelger, Ph.D.,  the idea came from teacher Cheryl Woods and will give students the chance to practice authentic writing or writing for meaning, Mr. Doelger added.

He noted that students will initiate the letters to the seniors and he will deliver them to the Senior Center. The senior citizens will then reply to the student letters. This will all take place with handwritten snail mail to make it personal and alive.

Mr. Doelger said he sees the students getting together at the end of the year at the center with their pen pal seniors. 

“This could be in an ice cream social type of event,” the superintendent said. 

It has been found that there are many benefits to intergenerational relationships. Research has shown that this sort of activity can give both the young and old the chance to learn new skills. Also, the older folks get a new lease on life working with the young. Writing letters to the young can prevent loneliness and give the seniors a renewed sense of purpose. 

It will also give students the chance to learn about the past from someone who “was there.”

I spent my working life dealing with teenagers in high school. I always felt that I had to keep up with their styles, their music, their fads, their dress and their speech in order to understand them. Even though I never wanted to be their age, I felt that the more I knew about what they liked, the better job I could do. And in a way I felt younger. 

So if you are interested in becoming a pen pal, give Laurie a call at the center at 631-749-1059.

On another subject, I just received notice that a group for multiple sclerosis care partners is forming on the Island and will have its first meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 19, from 11 a.m. to noon in the library’s book sale room in the basement. The group will meet every Tuesday through Dec. 17.

I have been told that the person with MS and the caregiver are in this together. According to Laurie Fanelli, “The more each partner can learn about MS, the better both will be able to deal with the challenges ahead.”

The group will be lead by Lucille Buergers, LCSW and Laurie Fanelli, Psych/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner. They both share years of group experience and caring for MS co-partners. Call the senior center if you want to be part of the group.