McCarthy & Stone’s latest campaign is focused on bringing people together through the power of the written word, in a bid to help create new friendships and combat loneliness

Regular social interaction and feeling connected, have huge benefits for self-confidence and contentment no matter how old we are.

However this is particularly true for those who live alone, or don’t have regular contact with family members.

McCarthy & Stone has recognised that there is something special about receiving a letter in the post or putting pen to paper to a loved one or long lost friend.

Emails, Texts, Skype and FaceTime all have their place but there is nothing quite like receiving a handwritten letter.

And the personal touch of writing a letter is becoming more rare in a world of ever-changing technology.

Clifford Hughes

For many people receiving a letter in the post can help create a sense of belonging and excitement and this is why McCarthy & Stone is encouraging retirees from across the country to get involved in its Pen Pals initiative.

Two retirees have already experienced and benefitted from the Pen Pals pilot programme; McCarthy & Stone homeowners, Leslie Harpin, 87, and Clifford Hughes, 89.

Leslie lives at Isabella House, a Retirement Living development in Hertford exclusively designed for the over-60s.

Married for over 61 years, Leslie was born in 1932 in the time of the depression and was just eight years old at the beginning of World War II.

Clifford lives at Ryebeck Court, also an exclusively designed Retirement Living development, in Pickering North Yorkshire.

A former Company Director, Clifford has a busy family life with four children – three sons and one daughter and 10 grandchildren.

In his younger years Clifford played amateur football for Bury Football Club for three years, and Bolton FC for four years and was part of the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm.

The older generation often worry about being seen as a burden to their families. Which is why the aim of the Pen Pals campaign is to help retirees connect with like-minded individuals, particularly those who don’t feel comfortable using social media.

Those involved in the initiative are given the opportunity to strike up a companionship with their pen pal, providing them with a contact that they can start to feel familiar with and can write to when they want to.

Leslie Harpin

Leslie commented on being part of the pilot study: “I wanted to become a pen pal so I could broaden my outlook on people and life in general.

“I’ve enjoyed a career in communications, been a member of the armed forces and spent 37 years leading the local Air Cadets.

I am a husband, father of four, grandfather to 13 and also a great-grandfather to seven, so it’s fair to say I have vast experience of all aspects of life.

“Being able to share this with someone is incredibly important. Clifford and I have had a great start, and I look forward to getting to know him better.

Getting someone else’s thoughts on various topics taxes the mind, it keeps you thinking and it makes you look forward to their reply.”

With both individuals having a shared history in the armed forces, and large families with lots of grandchildren, there are clear talking points and commonalities for the pair to start building a friendship despite living 213 miles apart.

“Sharing one’s life with my pen pal stops me from worrying about other things,” Clifford said of the experience. “There’s also something rather nice in being able to share and compare your own life and family with someone else’s. It can give you a different perspective on things.

“I very rarely get lonely as I have lots of like-minded people around me at Ryebeck Court and have made plenty of companions since moving here.

There’s always something going on…That said, I do feel happier since I started exchanging letters with Leslie. It gives me something to look forward to.”

The Pen Pals scheme is open to anyone aged 60 and over who would like to be a pen pal to someone of a similar age, and who might be feeling lonely, or, think they could benefit from having a new companion.

The closing date to apply is Sunday 31st March. 

Applications can be made online at https://www.mccarthyandstone.co.uk/pen-pals/, or those interested can request an application form by calling McCarthy & Stone on: 0800 8100089 and providing their name and address.