Bridging the generation gap, one pen pal at a time

Hannah Left, Cookie Right

In the age of social media, it seems like it should be easier than ever to maintain relationships with other people. Yet 43 percent of seniors feel lonely, which is associated with faster rates of physical and mental decline.

Receiving a handwritten letter in the mail, meant just for you, is a rare and beautiful gift in today’s fast-paced, digital world. It means you aren’t alone, that someone remembers you and cares deeply about you.

As activities director at the Jewish Association on Aging’s Weinberg Village, I recently helped link our senior residents with student pen pals from The Ellis School as part of our Generation to Generation (G2G) program. The results were nothing short of magical.

During the spring semester, the pen pals exchanged handwritten letters telling their personal stories. The seniors had the chance to pass on their wisdom to the next generation while learning what has changed – and stayed exactly the same – for children growing up today.

At the end of the program, the seniors met their young correspondents face-to-face. Cookie, our class clown here at Weinberg Village, had developed a special bond with his student pen pal, Hannah.

He told Hannah a joke in each letter, and the pair also wrote about their families – Cookie as a widower of 10 years and Hannah as the child of immigrant parents who valued education and pursued successful careers. Cookie was delighted to learn that Hannah will be attending his alma mater, Taylor Allderdice High School, in the fall.

Hannah has continued to visit Weinberg Village to deliver new letters to Cookie in person. When I see them together, it strikes me how unusual it is for seniors to connect in meaningful ways with young people outside their own families, and how important those connections are.

If you are interested in volunteering with G2G, call me at 412-521-6024 or email

This post written by Sandy Dojcak, Activities Director at Weinberg Village

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