Socially un-distanced - the joy of pen pals

‘Social distancing’ has become a phrase we have said and seen a lot throughout the last year, although what we really mean is ‘physical distancing’.

Being there for others socially and emotionally is more important than it has ever been. The 3rd lockdown has become the most emotionally and mentally stressful yet, and is having a serious effect on the nation’s mental well being.

The best way to combat this is to talk and to have company. Having someone to share your thoughts and feelings with has always been important to us all. We meet people with whom we form unbreakable bonds and nurture lifelong friendships. This can be done even with ‘physical distancing’.

Back in 1950, 12 year old Australian Jill Stretton (nee Frankling) was given the address of Cathie Alexander (nee McIntosh) when a relative returned from a holiday in Scotland. Here began a 70 year old, 10,000 mile friendship.


Jill Stretton and Cathie Alexander have enjoyed a 10,000 mile pen pal friendship for 70 years.

From their initial correspondence, the young girls felt like instant kindred spirits and continued to write to each other, despite the huge distance and 6 week delivery time for their letters.

They have grown up together and shared all of life’s milestones; marriage, children, and grandchildren, along with life’s tribulations and darker moments. All of this despite having only met in person three times throughout their friendship. First in 1982, and then in 1988 and 2000.

When discussing their remarkable companionship Jill says, “She [Cathie] is just like one of the family” and goes on to say, “…we are still as together as we ever were 70 years ago. It is quite an achievement.”

Jane Austin wrote, “The distance is nothing when one has a motive.” and for these lifelong pen pals this certainly rings true.

Despite the difficulties we all face in this pandemic, it really is important to turn to our social and emotional support network. Friends and family can build our spirits in the darkest of times, meaning that you are never alone.

In today’s modern world it can be easy to forget about pen pal opportunities, but there are people all over the world looking for someone to write to and to form new friendships with. If you have never given thought to this, maybe you should? There are a variety of websites who will partner you up with a pen pal who shares similar interests and values. Remember, distance doesn’t matter!

If anyone is feeling alone or hopeless, is really struggling with every day life, or just needs to talk, there is help out there. If you feel that you can’t reach out to your friends or family, then The Samaritans are there for you. Pick up the phone, don’t be alone.

You can call The Samaritans on 116123 or email jo@samaritans.org.

Article by Sally White
Ablyss Co Founder

Ablyss Care Home Management System

Ablyss Systems Ltd
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