This week on the blog, one of our fantastic student volunteers, Dylan, is sharing some of his tips and tricks to writing a fantastic letter. Thanks Dylan for the tips, and have fun writing everyone!
If you’re like me, you might wonder how exactly you should write these letters. What should they include, how unique should each one be, how should I write them and with what kind of voice? Hopefully these pieces of advice from a fellow volunteer can help you get started with your writing.
Have a few different topics in mind. Try to talk about different things for each letter that might stimulate the thinking of the seniors you are writing to. Things like where they used to live, any pets they might have had, any comfort foods they might like, where they currently live, what their favorite animal or color or memory is. Basing each letter off of a different topic will vary your writing and vary the writing that the seniors will read.
Design the letters differently. This works in tandem with the previous piece of advice. Try to make the letters themselves reflect what you are writing about. Draw animals along the border of your letter if you talk about pets, draw food if you talk about food, doodle a landscape if you talk about locations. And if you aren’t very artistic, placing a few stickers on your letter will certainly suffice. This will help you stay creative and make the letter look better, which is an important aspect to writing to these seniors.
You can make the paper itself unique. I write my letters on standard 8 ½ by 11 computer paper and eventually I decided that the paper itself could be altered to improve an otherwise unspecial letter. You can cut the paper to look like a scroll or an open book, a simple google search can show you how it should look and as long as you have the determination, drawing the scroll or open book should be no issue.
Tell stories. Sometimes if you’re running out of different topics, look for inspiration in your day to day life and explain a situation to a senior. You don’t have to have climbed Mount Everest either. A simple story about going to a grocery store or getting your car stuck in the snow can be enough. As long as you can distract the seniors and make them smile, you’ll have done your job.
Tell jokes. They don’t need to be funny to you, but writing jokes can be a good way to make the seniors happy and stimulate their minds if they play along and try to guess the punchline before reading it. Looking online for “Dad Jokes” might be a nice place to start in terms of the kind of jokes that will appeal to the seniors the most.
Include extra items. Including photos of pets or adding little crossword puzzles or word searches can give the seniors something extra to do once they’ve finished reading your letter and it shows a certain extra level of care you have for them, another very important aspect of writing these letters in the first place.
All of the previously mentioned pieces of advice have helped me out in the past and I hope they do the same for you. While it may feel a little odd writing to a senior at first, it is something that will get easier the more you do it. Just remember to write to them with a level of respect and use words that they will understand. Try to avoid text lingo or modern references you might write to someone your own age. It is important to keep in mind the audience you are writing to and create pieces of writing that will appeal to them. This is about making their days better, so pull out a piece of paper and start writing.
Happy writing! Dylan
Have other tips and tricks? Please reach out to our volunteer coordinators! You can find their emails and areas of speciality here.