Pen pals: 'Take advantage of your days'
In March, two friends and Colton residents, Cathy McQueeney and Katherine Lancaster, were discussing the pandemic along with the shutdowns and isolation guidelines that were just beginning. Lancaster, who is marketing director for Pheasant Point Assisted Living and Memory Care and Silver Creek Senior Living in Woodburn, mentioned her idea of pen pals for some of the residents in the retirement community.
"My thoughts were about the isolation and depression some of our elderly are experiencing," Lancaster said, "especially those without family."
McQueeney was intrigued and agreed to take part. Lancaster set up a pen pal friendship between McQueeney and Silver Creek Senior Living resident, 80-year-old Shirley Desch. Lancaster said she likes seeing how their friendship has grown.
"We have so much in common," McQueeney said. "She was raised on a small farm; I live on a farm. We write about canning and pickling. She loves saxophone music, and my husband plays sax. Our letters are always upbeat and positive. I am really looking forward to meeting her. And this pen pal program is not just one-sided; it works both ways. It is a good thing for me too."
"It is a real benefit," Desch said when asked about the pen pal idea. "I look forward to the letters. They boost my morale and remind me there is still a world out there, and we get to share our lives."
Desch and her husband worked at the family's business, "Capital Monument" in Salem, and spent a lot of time with their other business "Balloon Flying Service of Oregon," providing scenic hot air balloon rides to clients.
Her stories are fun, intriguing and educational. In my short conversation with Desch, she left me with wise words for daily living (also laughs, smiles and a bit of sass).
"There are some people, lots of them," Desch said, "and they need to know it is okay to be alive and have troubles. You can find some light."
When she was asked for some thoughts on how to encourage others to become pen pals Desch said, "You can get so much out of being a pen pal. It is amazing to learn about each other and how much you have in common and it is a place when you can share your thoughts."
"We need this now more than ever," Lancaster said. "You can build a new friendship. We are looking for more to join the pen pal program."
If you are interested in corresponding with residents of the senior homes, contact Katherine Lancaster at 503-981-4142.
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