A pen pal program during COVID-19 pandemic increases student interest for careers in geriatrics

Abigale J. Miller, Emily E. Jezewski, Elizabeth N. Harlow, Jane F. Potter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Social isolation and loneliness are serious issues facing older adults that have been intensified during COVID-19. Through a pen pal program, we connected 69 healthcare professional students with 180 older adults in our community to help reduce social isolation and loneliness. Participants were connected through letters, e-mails, and phone calls for three months. At the end of the program, we surveyed students (response rate: 62%). Half of the students reported spending less than 20 minutes per week on the project. Of the survey respondents roughly 91% were white, 74.4% were enrolled in the College of Medicine, and 51.1% were in their first year of their respective program. Students increased their knowledge of social isolation and loneliness (p = .0001), their interest in volunteering (p = .018) and working with older adults (p = .028), and their comfort communicating with older adults (p = .002). Students reported that their wellness improved and that they practiced skills that would be used in their future careers. By providing volunteer experiences to students, we can increase their exposure to the geriatric population, hopefully increasing the number of students who enter geriatrics while simultaneously reducing social isolation and loneliness in older adults.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-17
Number of pages15
JournalGerontology and Geriatrics Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2022


  • Pen pal
  • covid-19
  • education
  • social isolation
  • students

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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