I don’t know where they come from, but my grandma seems to have an endless supply of jokes. Every card she sends me—birthday or holiday or any day—has a new joke in it. She likes to pose the question on the inside (“Why was the broom late?”) and then write the punchline on the back of the card (“It overswept.”). She lives with my aunt who tells me that Grandma loves my cards the best because I write big and they always make her laugh.
Since we live in two distant parts of the country, letter writing is a tangible way for us to stay in touch. It’s nice to catch up on the phone, but letters serve as constant reminders of how much I care. And I display her cards in my house just like she displays mine. She has childhood stories about writing to her best friend on the other side of the state and to her brother when he was stationed overseas. I know that when my letters arrive in her mailbox, they’re a sweet dose of nostalgia for her.
A Nationally Recognized Day for Sending Our Greetings
I’m glad to reflect on and share this special connection I have with my grandma because coming up is the official day to celebrate the practice of sealing communication with a stamp (and maybe a kiss). February 7th is National Send a Card to a Friend Day, and it’s the perfect opportunity to reach out to our aging loved ones in a way they’re endearingly familiar with. While it’s quick and simple to email a photo or send an ecard, these easy means of getting in touch can alienate older adults who aren’t as familiar with technology’s constant evolution.
The truth is that we can all enjoy the tried and true form of handwritten communication. We tend to take for granted e-communication that offers instant gratification, delayed only by the time it takes the recipient to click a button. But, there’s a unique kind of charm that comes with dropping an envelope in the mail and an intriguing suspense that comes with waiting for it to arrive. The sentiment and attachment have time to build, and it’s hard to replicate this experience by simply hitting “send.”
Creative Writing Ideas to Inspire
Taking advantage of this nationally recognized day to send our love is the perfect opportunity to reconnect with older loved ones—or just to refresh our connection with them in a new way. If you haven’t sat down with a pen and paper for a while, it can be hard to get a handwritten letter started. Try tapping into what interests you, or what you know interests your aging loved one. There’s no need to chronicle everything that has happened since you were last in touch. What’s important is that you’re getting in touch—and in a form that they can pull out any time they need to feel that connection again. Here are some prompts and fun ideas to get you started.
- “Remember that time when we. . .” Reflect on a favorite memory you share.
- Tell them what you’re passionate about. What is really exciting for you right now?
- Start with a joke. Put the punchline at the end, on the back, or—if you’re really committed—in your next card.
- Relay the latest stories about your kids or your pets.
- Ask questions for your recipient to answer in their response. These questions might help your aging loved one call up great memories.
– “We just got back from our road trip. Remind me again, what were all the states you hit on that cross-country trip you took with the family?”
– “I’m going to stop by the library again next week. What are your three favorite books of all time? I’d love to check them out!”
- Speak your mind through art. Doodles around your words—pictures speak for themselves.
- Make up a fun short story. This letter may even be chapter 1, with more chapters to follow in other cards.
- Write a poem. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, just a little verse that is touching or funny.
- Write a “thank you” note and list all the ways in which you’re grateful for this person.
After her parents sent six-year-old May Pierstorff to visit her grandmother by train in the mail compartment, with stamps and an address label stuck to her coat, the postal service revised its parcel regulations in 1914 making it no longer possible to send a person this way. Yet, it’s still possible to send your heart-filled sentiments through the mail for your loved ones to hold and read again and again.
Let National Send a Card to a Friend Day spur you into revisiting the charm of the handwritten word. Chances are good it will be as touching an experience for you as it is for the recipient. You may even be inspired to keep it up, breathing new life into the relationship with your aging loved one.
For other creative ways to connect with your aging loved one, reach out to Institute on Aging. Our trained and compassionate staff is here to help by providing resources and the best at-home care for older adults.