‘Intergenerational pen pal’ scheme hopes to combat loneliness

An innovative writing scheme is hoping to tackle the growing problem of loneliness amongst the older – and younger – generations.

Dr Georgina Binnie’s Writing Back project, which is being spearheaded by the University of Leeds, is hoping to connect students with elderly people through an ‘intergenerational pen pal’ scheme.

In recent weeks, Dr Binnie has extended the scheme – which pairs up students with local elderly residents – to overseas and international students in a bid to tackle loneliness at both ends of the spectrum.

She explains: “The focus of Writing Back has always been on preventing loneliness, and for our international students, who may be away from home for the first time in an unfamiliar country, it’s something they want to do for themselves. It’s also a chance to learn more about the Yorkshire heritage and culture.”

The project, which has been running for four years so far, is hoping to make a difference to the lives of lonely people both young and old.

In particular, Dr Binnie is hoping that this year’s Writing Back campaign will extend support to elderly people from ethnic minority backgrounds living in the area, whom she believes may fare worse in the UK when it comes to feeling lonely.

Taiwanese student Yi-Ping Hu, who has recently signed up for the scheme, said that she has high hopes for its possibilities.

“In Asia, older people stay with their families and help raise their grandchildren, and I miss my grandparents very much. I don’t get the chance to meet with many older people, so to write to someone is very special for me,” she said.

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