To ease the daily lives of isolated and lonely elderly people, Lilwen, an 18-year-old student, founded the Appelle ta Jacqueline association. The idea? Correspond with an elderly person who lives alone or in a nursing home. A wonderful initiative that warms hearts and reconciles generations.
The health crisis has made it possible to point out a scourge of our society: the isolation of our elderly. Aware of this reality, Lilwen Letondeur decided to act. In May 2020, the student became a volunteer with the Red Cross of Bois-Colombes, in the Paris region, to provide comfort to seniors. There she meets Jacqueline, 93 years old. For many months, these two women will tell each other their lives and build a listening relationship through letter letters. An experiment “moving and rewarding” who gave birth to the association “Appelle ta Jacqueline”. meeting.
“There is no better satisfaction than having made the elders laugh. †
You are a small team consisting of members between 14 and 19 years old. What drives young people to interact with our elderly?
To tell you the truth, I think every day we face the loneliness of our elderly when we think that they are far from us or that they lived alone during the Covid… According to the age of our grandparents, some are very lonely, especially the elderly who are no longer engaged in outdoor activities. For the youngest among them, the loneliness is less palpable, although in fact it persists because of their age and the distance between them and us.
Why letter letters instead of telephone calls?
Young people no longer use writing. The loss of this use tends to widen the gap between young and old. Writing is showing reflection, showing special patience. By writing we reconcile generations and break through stereotypes. In addition, the call tends to interfere.
How many letters do you receive per month and how do you arrange for sending to isolated elderly people?
Our action started just after the first incarceration, in May 2020, as a result of which many young people wanted to break the loneliness of the elderly because they lived their “limited” life for two months. Through the Center for Social Action in Bois-Colombes, we bring volunteers from all over France in contact with the most isolated.
As soon as the association started, we received about fifty letters. Today and thanks to the media, the association is growing and we have passed on about 200 letters.
How do our elders react (knowing that these letters are sent by strangers)? Do they give up easily?
Unfortunately, we don’t always get feedback from our elders and volunteers. Even if the answer isn’t there, a smile is guaranteed! There is no better satisfaction than having made the elders laugh. They always appreciate the action, even if they don’t answer. As the springs open, it is easier for the elderly to open up and, guided by the desire to send and tell, their response is often punctuated by sweet words and fond memories.
You probably heard about the Ehpad scandal after the book investigation the gravediggers by Victor Castanet. Is this a reality that sometimes comes up in these letters?
I don’t read letters between volunteers and seniors. I flip through them to make sure nothing out of the ordinary is going on. Obviously, through words we understand that this problem resonates in people’s conscience. Other than that, it’s a very light shed on a reality that is often forgotten; those of our elderly whom we neglect on a daily basis. Ultimately, it is this reality that motivates writing.
How do you think we could act on a daily basis to combat the isolation of the elderly?
If writing letters is a one-time action, everyone can get to work every day to break through the isolation of the elderly. For example, we can offer seniors to take their groceries home with them, chat with them when the opportunity arises, or just smile at them, show they are not alone.
Do you have any other ideas for the sequel?
I think I will continue to operate on the support of letter letters. Then I would like to expand the project on a European scale, so that young people can exchange in English with older people from all over Europe. I think it is also an excellent tool for intercultural exchanges.
To correspond with your “Jacqueline”, nothing could be easier: contact the association by email ([email protected]) or by private message via social networks. Then send your letters or your works to the address provided. You can choose to write regularly to a single person, or occasionally with a group of seniors in nursing homes. Well, all you have to do is wait a few days.
And if you are motivated, you can even become an active member of the association! And for even more information, head here.