Seniors in Tennessee nursing home making friends through pen pal program


HIXSON, Tenn. (WTVC) – Nursing homes have been among the most impacted facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s important to remember it has been a lonely experience for many seniors sheltering in place.

The staff at Brookdale Hixson Senior Living in Tennessee have found a way for their residents to stay connected to those they love, even making new friends through a unique pen pal program.

Gordon Temple is 85-years-old, and loves woodwork, singing and playing table games. But being separated from his family because of the coronavirus has made those things hard to enjoy.

“We can talk to them and see them on you know, the cell phones but flesh to flesh, we can’t see our kids,” Temple said.

The staff at Brookdale Hixson, an assisted living facility, has an idea keep people connected to one another, including 15 residents.

Workers arranged a pen pal program, led by Erin Edens.

“I was expecting our residents to get about four to five letters,” said Edens.

Instead, they received 4-500 letters in just two weeks.

Temple, a former pastor, cherishes every word, and reading heartfelt words from perfect strangers old and young.

“When he got through, he said ‘I love you, Gordon.’ that really touched me,” Temple said.

Evelyn is a veteran, and she gets plenty of messages from active and retired military personnel, reconnecting with people she has not spoken to in 20 years.

“People are still trying to be integrated into the community even though they’re social distancing. They’ve shown our residents love, care and concern during this time,” said Angela Hampton, the facility’s executive director.

As these letters pour in day after day, she says it’s becoming tough describing the joy she sees now.

“Just smiling and laughing and saying, ‘That’s sweet.’ It’s made everybody’s day,” said Hampton.

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