MiraVista Delivers Letters in Recognition of National Letter to an Elder Day

HOLYOKE — A single handwritten letter can change someone’s day, week, or month. In fact, it can have a profound effect on the receiver’s overall mental health and emotional well-being.

For that reason, in recognition of National Letter to an Elder Day, which is held each year on Feb. 26, MiraVista Behavioral Health Center delivered more than 100 handmade cards and notes of care to Arbors Assisted Living at Chicopee.

For the past several weeks, with direction and support from Melody Joy, a MiraVista group therapist on the Adolescent Inpatient Psychiatric Unit, approximately a dozen young people have been contributing to colorful cards and well-wishes for the elders at the Arbors.

“The impact of this project is visible,” Joy said. “The thoughtful words of kindness and brightly colored cards and notes from our young people highlight the tangible expressions of thoughtfulness from our youth, who are ages 13 to 17. Sometimes, in their own personal struggles with depression and anxiety, they may feel alone. This creative outlet has given us all an opportunity to remind ourselves that we are not alone in how we feel, and that helping others to feel less lonely helps with our own feelings of isolation and, for some, abandonment.”

Joy added that her own mother was in a senior-living residential facility during the COVID-19 pandemic, and communication was restricted to window conversations. “I remember my mom experiencing her own sadness and isolation, and yet she would try to make other residents happy. It brought her joy to reach out to others, and it brings me joy to facilitate such a caring project with our youth.”

A volunteer her whole life, Joy took charge of the National Letter to an Elder project with enthusiasm and much creativity, also helping the young people create flowers that don’t require watering or soil and already come with plenty of sunshine.

For those who just weren’t quite sure what to say, they instead used artwork to express their emotions for the elders who will receive the cards. Bright floral designs, origami flowers and butterflies, sunbeams, hearts, and shooting stars are among the many cards and letters that were handmade.

Letter to an Elder Day was first celebrated by Love for Our Elders, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to positively impact loneliness among seniors. Love for Our Elders began with a young boy, Jacob Cramer, and his grandfather. When Jacob’s grandfather passed, he began volunteering in his town’s senior-living community as a way to honor his memory. While volunteering, he discovered that many residents rarely received messages or visitors and that loneliness was a persistent concern. So he started writing letters — lots of them. Since 2013, Cramer and an army of volunteers have delivered thousands of letters around the world. MiraVista became aware of the day and joined the many volunteers worldwide participating. Why Feb. 26? It’s Jacob’s grandmother’s birthday.