A RETIREMENT developer is encouraging older people to become pen pals to help put an end to loneliness.

The art of letter writing may have taken a back seat to email, test messages, WhatsApp and even FaceTime in recent years, says McCarthy and Stone, but the new campaign hopes to revive it to help retired people form friendships from afar.

The company's apartment developments for buyers aged over 60 include Keerford View in Carnforth, The Wickets at Kirkgate, Settle, and Williamson Court in Lancaster.

The pen pal project is open to anyone aged 60 and over who may be feeling alone and thinks they could benefit from companionship with someone who shares their hobbies and interests, from around the country.

Fiona Brooks, regional sales and marketing director for McCarthy and Stone North West, said: “We understand that for a lot of older people who may be experiencing loneliness, opening up and sharing how they’re feeling with loved ones can be difficult. They do not want to be seen as a burden.

“There are also some members of the community who can’t get and out about easily to meet new people, to visit family, and it is often these people who can feel the most alone.

"The aim of the pen pal scheme is to give over 60s who perhaps aren’t as social media-savvy another means to connect with people – the opportunity to strike up new friendships and have someone they feel they can write to when they feel the need.”

Fiona added: "I would encourage anyone thinking of being a pen pal to submit their application as soon as possible. We are excited to see how this can really make a difference to the lives of older people, and hope it will be the start of some long-lasting literary friendships.”

The closing date is Sunday, March 31, and you can apply by visiting www.mccarthyandstone.co.uk/pen-pals/ or calling McCarthy and Stone on 0800-8100089 for an application form.

Two people who have already benefited from the pen pals programme are McCarthy and Stone homeowners Leslie Harpin, 87, from Hertford, and Clifford Hughes, 89, from Pickering.

Leslie said: “I wanted to become a pen pal so I could broaden my outlook on people and life in general.”

Born in 1932 at the time of the Depression, and just eight years old at the beginning of World War Two, he has enjoyed recalling memories of his childhood when writing to Clifford, and has relished the chance to exchange their different life experiences.

“I’ve enjoyed a career in communications, been a member of the armed forces and spent 37 years leading the local Air Cadets," said Leslie. "I am a husband, father of four, grandfather to thirteen and now great-grandfather to seven, so it’s fair to say I have vast experience of all aspects of life.

“Being able to share this with someone is incredibly important. Clifford and I have had a great start, and I look forward to getting to know him more. Getting someone else’s thoughts on various topics taxes the mind, it keeps you thinking and it makes you look forward to their reply.”