Senior Pen Pals...

and Now I am One!

Senior Pen Pals -- you are retired, sitting at home, why not expand your world and write to ladies worldwide? Why Not? It's really important to keep your mind functioning, so what better way by simple friendly letters and sharing life with another gal? Check out Sandi's pen friend experiences below!

Guess what? My site, www.retirement-online.com, has a senior pen pal network.. click here!

Senior Pen Pals: Now I am One!

Sandra Lee Smith, CA

In 1980, some months after we had moved, lock, stock and barrel, to Florida—losing two pet cats along the way—I yearned for some new penpals. I wrote a letter to Women’s Circle magazine, describing myself and my family, and mentioned that my “hobby” was Christmas. It’s something I think about and plan for throughout the year.

After that letter was published, two women—one in Ohio, the other in Louisiana, wrote back to me. They both loved Christmas and it was the cement that forged a lasting friendship by mail. Both women are about the same age my mother would be, if she was still alive. When I first “met” them – writing letters (no computer yet!) – they were women with husbands and grown children and grandchildren.

Now, some 26 years later, both of my senior pen pals have lost their husbands and both have experienced numerous health issues (a topic that was foreign to me when I was in my 40s but with which I have become personally acquainted in my 60s). But we still write letters to one another, and occasionally exchange photographs. MY life underwent major changes too. We would move back to California, celebrate 25 years of marriage and then – go through a divorce. I would slowly begin to put my life back together again, and my senior pen pals were always there, a great source of comfort, because oftentimes you can write something that you are unable to put into words with friends or family members.

Additionally, I had the gift of wisdom provided by penpals a few years older than myself. The irony was not lost on me that I could write and discuss subjects with my penpals that I would never write or talk about with my own mother! The really truly great gift of having penpals is that it bridges all age groups. Along with my two senior penpals, I have penpals close to my own age, and penpals who are young enough to be my own children. None of us ever seems to run out of things to write about. While my Louisiana penpal was struggling with her husband’s terminal illness, I was struggling with my older sister’s terminal battle with cancer. It can be such a comfort to have a friend somewhere who writes back to say “I understand” – and you know they really do.

I have a penpal in Australia with whom I have been corresponding since 1965—Forty-one years! When we first began writing letters back and forth, we were both married and raising young children. We have gone through so much together—me a divorce, her a temporary separation from her husband and the loss of her only son. Now they live in a retirement community and we both have grandchildren. In 1980, we met when they flew to the United States for a visit. We met their younger daughter too, when she accompanied them to the USA. It was simply wonderful—there was no discomfort in meeting and getting acquainted in person.

In fact, every time I have ever met a penpal (and I’ve met most of them) – it’s just like seeing a close friend or relative whom you haven’t seen for a long time. And now most of us are senior pen pals – but it hasn’t changed the depth or the warmth of our friendships. Seniors have a lot to offer the world of penpalling – the experience and wisdom that comes with age, for one thing or sometimes a different perspective on a problem or a challenge that is besetting you. A few months ago, I rejoined Weight Watchers – and two of my penpals are also members of Weight Watchers, so it’s nice to be able to exchange thoughts and recipes with people who really do know what you are undergoing.

Here’s the really great thing about penpalling – whether it’s a young mother or a college student, or a senior – you are forging friendships with people you might never have met were it not for the inky trail. And some of those friendships last forever.