Written by: Stephanie Wickens (McMaster Student of Gerontology and Hamilton Aging in Community Member)

Art and Letters for Seniors is an intergenerational community-based initiative that was created in the spring of 2020 in response to the social isolation impacts facing long term care residents due to the pandemic. Hamilton Aging in Community partnered with student volunteers from McMaster’s Student Open Circles to create pieces of art, handmade cards and letters which are distributed to residents of local long term care homes. Student volunteers also create contributions for staff working at homes to show community support and appreciation.

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Since the beginning of the initiative, student volunteers have created hundreds of heartfelt contributions. This has proved to be a mutually beneficial activity enjoyed by all participants. One student volunteer expressed, “Art and Letters to Seniors was the most rewarding thing I did during 2020. It gave me an opportunity to still make a difference in my community when that felt almost impossible to do during a global pandemic.” Another said, “For myself, Art and Letters to Seniors served as a way to relax from academic work, and gave me the chance to give back to the Hamilton community.” Several student volunteers from the fall term are continuing to participate throughout the winter, saying that they found the experience enjoyable and rewarding. A staff member at the long term care home noted that the contributions were “loved”, enjoyed, and appreciated by residents and staff. She also said that the initiative was a really special way for students to connect with the residents, let them know that others were thinking of them, and brought joy and smiles to the home. 

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Art and Letters for Seniors continues to be a meaningful way of fostering intergenerational connections in our community. Student volunteers from Student Open Circles and members of Hamilton Aging in Community are finding creative, accessible, and safe ways of reaching out to others in the community to express love, hope, and support. These connections help to build empathy and resilience and strengthen community ties for generations to come.

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“A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees.” Amelia Earhart

Hamilton Aging in Community is grateful to Student Open Circles for their generous contributions to this initiative. To learn more about them: https://www.studentopencircles.com/

To get involved with Art and Letters for Seniors please contact:

Stephanie Wickens at wickens@mcmaster.ca

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