Several weeks ago you may recall I published a joke email about the treatment of The Elderly in Nursing Homes v Criminals in Prison. Guess who receives the best treatment! The post resulted in one of my facebook subscribers posting a link on my Facebook wall: The Forgotten Ones: International Card Exchange for the Elderly. Curious, I clicked on the link which led me on to The Forgotten Ones: Compassion for the Elderly. The pictures haunted me…
Walk into any nursing home today, and you’ll see them: The aging lonely. They are easily recognizable. Look for the sadness on their faces, the pain in their eyes. With a television on for company, these men and women sit alone in their rooms. Their shelves are bare, their bulletin boards void of pictures, cards, or any memento denoting love from the outside. Those sad eyes may even hold a twinge of bitterness, asking, “Why am I still here with no one to love me?” ~ by Karrie Osborn
Intrigued by the idea I decided to contact Pam O’Halloran founder of “The Forgotten Ones: International Card Exchange for the Elderly” and she kindly agreed to be interviewed.
Pam, please can you tell us a little about yourself?
I have been a flight attendant for many years with US Airways. My love and compassion for the elderly actually began on an aeroplane one day. An elderly gentleman boarded prior to the rest of the passengers, as he needed more time and help. He hobbled slowly down the aisle with his cane, as I carried his bag and lifted it into the overhead compartment. As he sat down, I began conversing with him, only to find that he was desperately alone in the world. He was headed to New York City alone, where he would then catch a bus to a place where he would again…be alone. When the plane landed, I walked with him up the jetway in an effort to get him some assistance to his bus. (nothing had been arranged for him previously and he had never been to NYC) He stopped after a few steps. I thought he was out of breath and asked if he was alright. He was weeping. He told me how much he appreciated my care and concern for him and thanked me profusely. I hugged him tightly and we cried together. I have never forgotten that poor, lonely old man. I never had any living grandparents, nor had I ever worked in elder care.
What prompted you to start The Forgotten Ones: International Card Exchange for the Elderly?
That man, on that day, touched my heart so deeply and inspired me to begin helping the lonely elderly however I could. I began volunteering and have been doing so in various capacities ever since. I can think of no better way to help them. The simple act of just being there, with love in your heart, makes a huge difference in the lives of the lonely and forgotten elderly…and your own,
What is “International Card Exchange for the Elderly”?
I began my original page, The Forgotten Ones: Compassion for the Elderly as a way to raise awareness and to encourage volunteerism. Many people indicated that they were disabled, homebound etc., and could not get out to volunteer. I always suggested sending cards.
Last October, I began, The Forgotten Ones: International Card Exchange for the Elderly with those people in mind, as well as others who may be too busy to volunteer. It is a list of long-term care facilities and other cooperating organizations that help the lonely elderly. People may choose one address, or many, from all over the world, and send cards, letters, postcards, photos, small gifts etc. to the lonely elderly who have no one. They often send several cards in a single larger envelope, with a note included that instructs the activities director to pass them to those residents who would most benefit from a little cheer.
I have begun sharing the list with those who request it so they may print and share it with others and their community. All of the addresses are on the page itself, however, one must scroll down quite far to be certain they view all the addresses. I have been thrilled with the feedback I have received. Many are involving their children, grandchildren, schools, churches, and even having “card party” nights with their friends to make and send cards to our lonely elderly. Wonderful!
How can people get involved?
Follow this link to connect to the page: The Forgotten Ones : International Card Exchange for the Elderly
Please don’t forget to “like” it!
It is very important, also, to click on and read the “About” to fully understand how to get started and glean a bit of information and ideas.
Anyone who would like the list and information to print and share may feel free to message me through the page itself and I will paste a copy to that message.
Please note – if you are not a member of Facebook you are welcome to contact Pam by email: pam o halloran [at] yahoo.com (Please remove spaces and change the at)
Do we need to contact care homes first to obtain permission to send gifts or cards?
I do have connections with some of the facilities and organizations listed, while others are submitted by people who ‘like’ the page and for various reasons would like a particular facility included. I have no way of knowing whether they have asked permission, but I have heard no complaints thus far. Residents names are never included, for safety, and the cards are addressed to the Activities Director to review first.
If one is able to contact and include the name of that individual, then even better. My experience has been that most people send cheerful little things that fit in a standard card envelope – like stickers etc. When sending gifts that do not fit in a card, I would suggest including a gift bag rather than actually wrapping them, to alleviate any safety concerns and allow the distributors to judge which gifts would be most appropriate and for whom. Larger gifts may always be delivered directly to a long-term care facility locally, and of course, an actual visit is always the best gift!
How and where do people add nursing/care home details to the list
Use the address listed on the facebook page or send by email.
If sending several cards in a larger envelope add “attention: activities director” to the outside of the envelope, and again, include a note inside stating your intentions to have them delivered to the more lonely residents. For individual cards, include the name and address of the facility along with “to any resident“, as well as “Attention:Activities Director” on the outside of the envelope. The greeting on the card inside can simply be a generic “Hello!” or any creative way of saying it.
I type and print a letter telling them a bit about myself, my life etc. and include a copy in each card. Photos of yourself, family, pets, travels, children’s drawings etc. are nice as well.
Postcards may be sent separately or included in a card. I like to encourage people to send cards outside of their own country or state/province if possible. It may make it more interesting and exciting for the resident. It can be as creative or simple as one wants to make it. I can assure you that your love and care will be felt and appreciated more than you can imagine!
Please also visit, The Forgotten Ones: Compassion for the Elderly and be inspired to volunteer for our lonely and forgotten ones.
The Forgotten Ones: International Card Exchange for the Elderly
Compassion for the Elderly
email: pam o halloran [at] yahoo.com (Please remove spaces and change the “at”
If this post strikes a chord with you, please reblog, share on Twitter, Facebook etc to help spread the word to your followers all over the world.
Thank you 🙂
I just shared your post on my FB page. It is the second time I have shared Pam’s work both on FB and through my own blog. It takes so little and means so much to souls that have seen far more than many of us ever will, and who have so much to share. Thank you for taking the time to do the interview and sharing the site.
A little kindness to the elderly goes a long way!
thankyou 🙂 I can«t seem to find your blog?
I wish I could do more for the elderly in Portugal, but language is a problem
Thank you so much, Raven! I appreciate your sharing my page on Facebook more than I can say. It really helps to get the word out there that much further, and it is so important! Much love to you, Raven! ~ Pam O’Halloran
Great concept and interview. TY! 🙂
Wonderful post and idea. Thanks, PiP.
When I read Pam’s FB page and the good work she was doing for elderly people, it was the least I could do to help gain support.
So pleased you found the link interesting and informative. The elderly are so often forgotten and I am so glad you interviewed the Founder of this wonderful site. I too wish I could chat more to the elderly locals here in Portugal, what tales they must have to tell. Most have lived in the same area, not to mention the same houses all their lives. I really enjoyed your article and the interview. Pam sounds a very inspirational person.
Hi Paws, if there were more caring people like Pam in the world it would be a better place.
I adore old people as they are so interesting to talk to, especially about life when they were young, Great post PIP, made me think and I will spend more time chatting to the old people who live around me.
When I visit my Mum in Devon, there are loads of elderly there. When I walk on the promenade by the sea, many are on buggies taking in the sea air, but they are alone. I smile and stop and talk with them. It takes just an hour or two and they are so engaing.
Here in Portugal, I would love to speak to the elderly who sit aroung the local square about life in Portugal years ago, and their family or interests, but language is always a great barrier so I can only smile.
I was touched by Pam’s story about the old man she met on the plane and it’s wonderful that she was inspired to help and her idea has been so popular. A But it struck me, when I read about the card “parties”, that perhaps not everyone truly grasps how the elderly feel. I’m sure for some, a deluge of cheery, impersonal cards might serve only to make them feel more alone in the world.
We need to remember that there’s no substitute for real, human interaction. Often what the elderly lack, is a connection to the world. Arthritis and poor vision can be obstacles to forming a pen-pal relationship, but if more people could give up an hour of their time each week just to go and chat to someone who lives in a retirement home, think what a difference that would make. Just remember, one day it could be you sitting there.
Thanks for a poignant post Pip!
Thank you for your comments! It is true that visiting the lonely elderly is the greatest gift one can give them. My original page, The Forgotten Ones: Compassion for the Elderly is about just that – love through volunteerism. As I mentioned in the interview, many folks on that page indicated that they truly wanted to help in some way, but were homebound themselves – sending cards was a way for them to do so. There is an 89 year old friend of my page who is in the beginning stages of Alzheimers, wheelchair bound, and still continues to volunteer her time at nursing homes. Prior to my starting the “cards page” she spoke of recycling cards that she herself received and tucking them into the hands of the residents she saw as she passed through the halls, or leaving them on their beds. They had no idea that they were written to someone else. She descibed the utter joy on their faces when they viewed the cards – the love they seemed to feel. A nurse showed my elderly volunteer friend, a box, where one gentleman kept all the cards she left for him – none of which were even addressed to him. He cherished them and looked at them all the time. Anyone who works in a long term care facility will tell you that they are thrilled with the smallest gifts, the smallest acts of love. The card exchange is not meant to serve as a pen pal relationship. No one is expecting a return letter. Someone will likely read the card to them, or the resident will simply view it believing it’s from someone, anyone, who loves and cares for them. Who they believe it is from matters not. What matters is that they know someone, somewhere is sending them love and care, right there, in that moment. Keep in mind that these cards are meant for the loneliest of the residents – those who have no one. They may see others recieving cards and gifts and there are none for them. There are many addresses on the list. It is unlikely that one nursing home, let alone one resident, will be deluged with cards. However, I would be thrilled if that were the case! Yes, yes, yes…visit the lonely elderly! Hold their hands, listen to them talk, (even if it’s jibberish or they are suffering from dementia) take them for a “walk” outside in their wheelchairs. If they think you are one of their loved ones who hasn’t visited, let them. Just be there. It can take as little as 15 minutes out of your day, week, or month. In addition to visiting, or if one cannot for some reason, why not send a card? Imagine a sick, lonely, elderly man or woman, who sits alone daily staring at the floor or wall – and there are many. Sixty percent of these residents recieve no visitors. The staff, while often times caring and friendly, do not have the time for the much needed love and special attention. A simple card placed in their hand, and being told, “This is for you.” will bring a little bit of cheer to their often sad world – I promise you. They have plenty of extra time to think about what they are missing in the world. A loving card may be the one thing makes them feel just a little better for a moment. Someone cares….Someone remembers I am here…Someone loves me.
Thanks to everyone reading and responding! Much love to you all! ~ Pam O’Halloran
Great post, PiP. My grandmother, mother, and an elderly cousin were all in nursing homes because health issues necessitated more care than family members could give at home. So many of them are such very sad places.
I know, some are so sad…what are the Nursing homes like in Chile?
Thanks for posting, this is something very close to my heart.
Thanks Optie, pls visit Pam’s FB page, but if you do not have FB and you would like to join in, her email is listed below…albeit in code!
I and my mum must be really lucky. She is in a care home around the corner from me. Mum is happier now than she has been for many a year. She has friends at the home and the staff are caring and friendly. She feels loved and cared for. They have activities morning and afternoon every day with a mini bus outing on thursdays. She is wheelchair bound and has COPD and crippled with arthritis but at 92 manages to remain positive. Ther is no one in her home that look sad and unloved. I am very aware that sadly the majority of homes are no where near as good as the one mum is in.. But they are out there. Great and interesting post.
Your Mum is indeed lucky 🙂
Fabulous idea! I’m talking to my family about joining it tonight 🙂
Thanks Kiwi 🙂
PiP…I just PRESSED this post! Thank you so much for bringing Pam O’Halloran and her International Card Exchange for the Elderly to my attention. I’ve already spread the word through my social network…and I will be visiting her site to learn more about it.
I’ve walked down the halls of nursing homes…and it is usually a sad, depressing sight. There is so much all of us could do (with very little effort and money) that would bring moments of sunshine to people who are living without it.
Hi Vivian, thank you SO much for sharing this post on your blog and spreading the word! I know Pam will be thrilled 🙂