Valley children cheer up isolated senior citizens with homemade cards
PHOENIX — Homemade cards are bringing much-needed cheer to seniors in Arizona nursing homes who can’t have visitors during the coronavirus pandemic.
Many of these cards are made by elementary school students through a campaign called WeCare Cards.
“They have been drawing very, very cute and heartfelt messages, because they pretend that’s their grandparents or their aunts and uncles who are in care homes,” said Linda Arters. “There’s drawings of hearts and there’s drawings of some saying ‘you are my sunshine.’”
Arters, a certified senior advisor, came up with the idea in March. She was trying to find a way to bring joy to seniors now that they’re physically and socially isolated from their family and friends due to COVID-19 visitor restrictions.
She first teamed up with Tempe Elementary School District, where students were already participating in a pen pal program. Students from other school districts in the Valley have joined in.
They’ve sent about 500 cards to nursing homes in Tempe, Gilbert, Phoenix and Flagstaff. That includes about 150 Mother’s Day cards that were sent over the weekend.
One card from a 4-year-old girl named Amelia said: “Hi – I made this special picture for you! I hope you have a great day.” There’s also one that says “You are special” and another one that says “Smile, someone loves you.”
Arters said many of the seniors getting the cards have traditionally communicated with personal greeting cards, handwritten letters and photos.
“For this generation that we’re sending these cards to, a lot of them went through World War II or the Korean War,” she said. “They remember sending letters from home to their loved ones in the war or they received them. And so that’s special to them.”
Before Arters started mailing the cards to seniors, she consulted with state health officials to come up with guidelines that help keep seniors safe from the coronavirus.
The guidelines include having students wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before they start making cards and only using paper or construction paper, which Arters said are surfaces where the coronavirus doesn’t live very long.
Visits to nursing homes have been restricted for nearly two months. Arters said she worries about the impact that isolation is having on seniors. She noted isolation can negatively impact seniors’ physical and mental health.
Arters added she hopes the cards will serve as “a physical reminder that they are loved.”