The effort connects generations through letter-writing. It helps youths develop fine motor skills, spurs seniors to practice a useful cognitive exercise and gives both groups a way to develop enriching connections.
Domtar tested the program in 2015 with a school and retirement community in California. The idea, chronicled in a short video, was so successful that the groups wanted to continue writing letters even after the initial two-month program officially ended.
"Research about the benefits of handwriting shows why this program can be useful," said Paige Goff, Domtar's VP of Sustainability and Business Communications. "But besides the educational and cognitive benefits, Domtar is excited about how it will spark smiles and hugs for both children and senior citizens. You see that in the video, and we can't wait to see it at the new places where PaperPal will debut."
PaperPal has been expanded to Wisconsin locations near a Domtar mill: Rothschild Elementary School, senior apartment community Birchwood Highlands and assisted living facility Stoney River. The program is also available to other facilities. To learn more about PaperPal or to receive a starter kit, visit www.paperbecause.com/handwriting.
To understand more about the benefits of handwriting for different generations, consider the research and expert opinions cited here:
Experts at Indiana University conducted brain scans on pre-literate children to determine whether printing letters, tracing them or typing is the most effective method in the learning process. The children tried each method, and then received a functional MRI scan in a device designed to look like a spaceship. The results? If children wrote by hand, the experts saw neural activity in three areas of the brain that was far more enhanced. These areas get activated in adults when they read and write.
A study in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience shows how handwriting can help adults learn new symbols – anything from music notes to Mandarin. Researchers found that if adults wrote the symbols, there was a stronger, longer-lasting recognition.
Good handwriting can play a role in classroom performance. It can take a generic classroom test score from the 50th percentile to the 84th percentile, while bad penmanship could tank it to the 16th, said an education professor at Vanderbilt University.
Handwriting can be a useful cognitive exercise for baby boomers trying to keep their minds sharp as they grow older, according to a neuroscientist at Duke University.
Children in grades two, four and six wrote more words, faster and expressed more ideas when writing essays by hand instead of with a keyboard, according to a study by a University of Washington professor of educational psychology.
"Handwriting remains valuable for all ages, and it's especially useful when it connects senior citizens and students," Goff said. "We're excited that more schools and senior centers are joining PaperPal, because we know the results will be so positive."
Domtar is a leading provider of a wide variety of fiber-based products including communication, specialty and packaging papers, market pulp and absorbent hygiene products. With approximately 9,850 employees serving more than 50 countries around the world, Domtar is driven by a commitment to turn sustainable wood fiber into useful products that people rely on every day. Domtar's annual sales are approximately $5.3 billion and its common stock is traded on the New York and Toronto Stock Exchanges.