Use a Typewriter


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I was recently doing a presentation at a local assisted living facility.  While I was waiting for the program to start, I sat in their parlor, which I noticed had a typewriter in it.  Next to it was a small sign that said “Type a letter to your friends and family.”  This was obviously a very popular activity, as there were many sheets of used paper sitting in a bin nearby.  Some of the sheets were filled with nonsensical strings of letters, some had short, simple sentences without much context or flow.  Others started in traditional business letter style, bearing return addresses and names of local companies, but with no paragraphs.  I asked my contact at the facility about the typewriter and she informed me that many residents actually typed full letters, which the facility mailed to the intended recipients on their behalf.  Some wrote to friends or family who were deceased, and those letters were given to other family members.  Even the letters that had little, if any, understandable text could be sent to family if the resident knew who it was intended for.  Otherwise, some individuals happily typed to no one in particular, just soothed by the familiar clack of the keys and the feeling of purpose.  When I asked about the unfinished business letters, she told me that a few ladies used to be secretaries and the over-learned addresses and company names were still in their heads, so they often “went to work” and began letters to be finished later in the day when the boss wanted to dictate something to them. 

I think this could be a really fun way to spend some time at home as well.  Not only would the person with memory loss might take more to typing on a typewriter than a computer, even if the letter’s content isn’t understandable, I bet it would give many people, especially in the moderate to late stages, a feeling of purpose.  Those in the early stages may be computer literate, but still might find reminiscing about typewriters to a less familiar crowd (think grandkids.  My young cousins/nieces and nephews once found a rotary phone while at a holiday dinner at my grandparents house and the ensuing conversation was both fascinating and hilarious).

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