The Art of Letter Writing
In today’s digital age, communication is fast, easy, and, very often, conducted without much forethought. Text messages and emails fly through cyberspace, popping up on our computers, tablets, and phones. Being able to track anyone down at any time is almost taken for granted.
We often forget there are entire generations that still value – and miss – the experience of a handwritten note, card, or letter. There’s something about the energy it takes to sit down and write your thoughts out in longhand, go to the post office, and mail your correspondence, not to mention the anticipation of awaiting a return letter or seeing a fresh piece of mail in your own mailbox.
Many seniors have fond memories of letter-writing, whether it was a childhood pen pal, letters back to family during summer camp, or sweet notes sent to a sweetheart during a time of war or separation. Letters were saved and reread, stored and treasured for years.
Knowing this, a great way to reconnect with a older loved one is starting your own letter-writing campaign, temporarily putting aside the convenience of today’s various communication tools, and taking the time to reach out with a note or letter. So once you have your supplies (yes, you can even buy stamps online at USPS.com), how do you get started and what should you discuss in your letters?
How to Write a Letter to Your Loved One
It’s definitely a great idea to start with your own life and current events for your family. Consider using these items to spark new lines of thought in your letter; does a recent trip to your daughter’s dentist remind you of the time you knocked out your own tooth on your bicycle? Does your recent holiday celebration remind you of a favorite meal your loved one used to make? Relating current topics to good memories can be fun and enjoyable for you and your loved one, and give your letters a richness that goes beyond a straight reporting of your daily activities. Before you know it, you may be needing more stationary!
If your loved one is capable of sending return mail, be sure to ask questions related to your correspondence to spark topics that might encourage them to share their memories.
For example, conversation starters could include:
- Who is the person who influenced your life the most?
- What was the happiest moment of your life?
- What are you most proud of?
- What are the most important lessons you’ve learned in life?
- Who were your friends when you were growing up?
- What was your favorite thing to do for fun?
- What school activities and sports did you participate in?
- Do you remember any fads from your youth? Popular hairstyles? Clothes?
It’s good to be sensitive to loved ones facing memory loss, so keep the topics light and don’t be upset if they have difficulty responding. The key is to reach out and connect in ways that remind them of their own youth. Receiving letters can give your loved one something exciting to look forward to on a regular basis, so you may be surprised at the impact a simple letter in the mail might have on him or her. Ideally, you both will get back in the habit or sending and receiving letters, and the end result will be a correspondence that can be saved for years to come, and even shared with younger generations.