Rotterdam: Sending postcards to battle loneliness among the elderly

A couple of days into her quarantine, Renée thought of something that could contribute to battling loneliness among the elderly in times of Coronavirus. She decided to send handcrafted postcards to elderly people: "I hope to encourage everyone to do something meaningful for one another, because this time, it is really necessary."


In the Netherlands, loneliness among the elderly has been a prevalent problem for quite some time. Many projects have been set up to battle this issue, such as spending time one- on-one with an (assigned) elderly person, volunteer work or other initiatives.


Personally, I have never participated in those activities, due to other responsibilities, but it has been very recently that I have realised the importance of battling loneliness. This happened when a virus came into the world, and has so far claimed thousands of victims. Regardless age, gender and background. This virus has taken over most of the planet within just a couple of months, earning the name of a Pandemic. It has opened many eyes, including mine.

It was around day 5 of quarantine, that I thought of something that could make some people smile. Of course, since Covid-19, elderly people in the Netherlands have literally been locked inside the nursing homes. The few people that were still visiting occasionally, were not allowed to come over anymore. Therefore, I figured that sending postcards – a humble but often impactful gesture – would bring some light into the lives of otherwise quite lonely people.


'I figured that sending postcards – a humble but often impactful gesture – would bring some light into the lives of otherwise quite lonely people'

I retrieved my art supplies from where I stored them years ago, and I just started to make some postcards. I decorated pieces of cardboard paper with ribbons, pictures of birds, glitter and stickers. Anything that I thought would bring a sense of nostalgia, that would bring us back to some simpler times. I had not been that focused on cutting out paper and making little drawings ever since I was a small child!


Photo by Renée Motter

When the postcards were finished, I got my mom’s old poetry album (a Dutch tradition where your friends and family take your album home, to write short, personal poems in it, before giving it back to you). I looked for encouraging poems about sunshine, good hope and most of all, togetherness. It took me some time to write the poems in the postcards but when I finished, I felt so incredibly happy!


I knew that the elderly people would appreciate it. Of course, maybe not my average arts-and-crafts talents, because honestly, those are not super impressive. But still, the effort would be very much appreciated and I just hope that the people in nursing homes find a small grain of hope in these handcrafted postcards – even just for a second. The thing is – I won’t know for sure.


'I hope that the people in nursing homes find a small grain of hope in these handcrafted postcards – even just for a second'

I was unable to deliver the postcards personally since nobody was allowed into the building without authorisation. I dropped the cards into a mailbox, and someone from the staff will hand them out in a couple of days. Unless the people contact me to tell me that they received the cards, I won’t know. Considering the relationship between old people and technology, I don’t think that will happen. And that is fine. As long as they feel some sunshine in this rainy time. This is how Covid-19 can bring people together, even by holding them apart. With this story, I wish to encourage everyone to make a gesture – small ones matter too – to do something meaningful for one another, because at this time, it is really necessary.


This story was shared by Renée Motter, a student of Communication and Media at Erasmus University Rotterdam. Next to her studies, she is the copy editor of IBCoMagazine.

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