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Birmingham primary pupils help older people tackle loneliness

Pupils from Cofton Primary School in Birmingham have been exchanging letters with residents at ExtraCare’s Longbridge Retirement Village in a bid to lessen the feeling of loneliness experienced during lockdown.

The letter exchange came about when the pupils were tasked to write a letter, one of the pupils suggested that the letters were addressed to the residents of Longbridge’s nearby retirement community.

Forty-seven letters were received from the school and residents have responded to each and every one. A collection of heart-warming stories and illustrations have been exchanged by the two generations.

During the past months – during lockdown especially – older people have had less opportunity for face-to-face socialising with family and friends. For the residents involved – who are on average 82 years old – the chance to write and receive a letter has provided a sense of reconnection with the wider community during these unprecedented times.

Irene Lees, aged 76, resident at Longbridge Retirement Village said of her letter exchange: “It was lovely to receive a letter and write one back, which is something I haven’t done for ages, and I found it so easy to respond. It was lovely of her to share her letter with me.”

Megan Betteridge, aged 83, comments: “I was absolutely delighted to receive a letter, it was so lovely. I have it pinned up on my wall.”

Extract from Megan’s letter: “My class wanted to write to local residents in our area to see how you are doing during COVID-19 restrictions. I would like to know if you’re ok and I would like to tell you a bit more about myself…”

Chris Hill, Village Manager at Longbridge Retirement Village said: “Our residents have really enjoyed taking part in the project, it’s given them a much-needed mental health boost at a time when some of them, like all of us, are understandably feeling a little lonely or isolated due to the current restrictions in place.”

Intergenerational activity has always been a priority for the ExtraCare, a registered charity. Its Lark Hill village starred in the BAFTA nominated Old People’s Home for 4-Year Olds and residents at Longbridge had introduced a stay and play group at its village for local parents and their young children, which has had to stop currently due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Chris Hill continues: “This is a great example of how we’ve all had to adapt to enable intergenerational activity to continue in our community. We recognise just how important it is for generations of all ages to mix, while restrictions have prevented face-to-face contact with the children, the letter writing project has helped increased the motivation of our older people and helped to reduce feelings of social isolation, all of which go on to improve their health and wellbeing. We’d like to thank the children for thinking of our residents at this time.”