News & Resources

Delivering Connection: Pen Pal Program Links Seniors and Kindergarteners

In today’s era of smartphones and tablets, the art of letter writing is fading. But not at Village On The Isle, where the art is flourishing, thanks to our intergenerational pen pal program. This popular program matches local kindergarteners with residents of our community, nurturing meaningful bonds across generations.

From January to May, seniors in the program receive monthly letters from their youthful counterparts. And if you’re curious about the conversations spanning across generations, prepare to be amazed. The exchanges include discussions on everything from outer space to anecdotes about lost teeth and a whole lot more.

Just ask program participants Judy D., Gene and Kathy J. They’ll attest to the magic of this intergenerational exchange, the benefits of pen pals for seniors and connection to the community.

Why Participate?

The pen pals get to spend time together too. Whether it’s the residents heading to the elementary school for special activities, refreshments and memorable performances, or the students visiting Village On The Isle to tour the community and participate in on-site events, everybody is guaranteed a fun and exciting time.

Judy had participated in a similar program in Massachusetts before she moved to VOTI, so she didn’t think twice about getting involved in ours.

“They’re so cute and write so well,” Judy says. “Their letters are written phonetically. Last year, I was paired with a little boy, but this year, my pen pal is a little girl. I had so much fun doing it the first year and wanted to be part of it again. It’s amazing!”

Kathy adds, “This is also our second year. What I think is most exciting is watching their growth.”

“We get to know them in January, and by then, they’ve already had a lot of writing practice,” she continues. “But where we see them in June is a night-and-day difference. With every letter, we get more complex sentence structure, approximate spelling and enthusiasm from them about the opportunity to write. We get plenty of drawings too. And you see the skill there. The former teacher in me loves to see it.”  

Kathy’s husband Gene says that before the couple moved to VOTI, they had participated in a similar program. “It was such a worthwhile and gratifying experience; we were thrilled to hear about a pen pal program here at VOTI,” he says.

Gene says the boundless energy of having a younger pen pal helps keep residents active and engaged, but the benefits of intergenerational pen pals don’t stop there.

For residents who don’t have young grandchildren, the program is an incredible opportunity to interact with a younger generation. This dynamic interaction fosters understanding and respect, fortifies bonds and—of course—brings smiles to all within the community.

“My one pen pal from a previous year told me about his dog, and he told me he was old, ‘just like you!’ I love their honesty,” Gene adds as everyone nods in agreement. “And they get to be around older people, likely older than some of their grandparents.”

Little Pen Pals Stop by Campus

While the senior pen pals were treated to a dance performance of Elvis Presley’s “Hound Dog” during a 2023 visit to the elementary school—which they loved—the wonder and excitement expressed by the students when they visited Village On The Isle were beyond compare.

“I think the crowd favorite had to be the woodshop,” Gene says. “We have a toy ministry on campus, and they saw a couple of guys making toys.”

Kathy adds, “One of our residents in the woodshop has a pen pal, and he made her a handcrafted wooden jewelry box in a beautiful heart shape.”

The pen pals are always excited to meet and do activities together at the school or on campus. From reading books to having casual conversations, there’s plenty to learn about one another.

“They grow so fast,” Kathy says. “By the end of the year, they’ve really grown a few inches and lost quite a few teeth!”

Beyond the educational benefits, the program serves as a bridge between different stages of life, fostering mutual respect and appreciation. As we witness the bonds between pen pals strengthen throughout the year, it becomes clear that this program is more than just an exchange of letters—it’s a celebration of the enduring power of human connection.

Plenty of Youthful Vibes

At Village On The Isle, there is plenty to do, and it’s easy to make friends as you join in and meet warm and wonderful people like you. From walking clubs to book clubs, faith-based studies, musical events to theme parties, pen pal programs and volunteer opportunities, there is always something going on and ways to serve the community.

For more information about our amenity-rich community, schedule a visit by calling (941) 202-4451.

Interested in our upcoming expansion?

You may have to rethink your retirement plans.