"What do you plan to do with your one, wild, precious life?" -Mary Oliver

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Cursive Writing vs. Alzheimers

My father has made an odd request of his children this Christmas. He wants a handwritten letter from each of us telling  him what we've been doing. That's all he wants. People used to write letters, especially at Christmas and I think he misses it. My parents don't have a computer so it must seem like nobody is communicating anymore. The art of letter writing is fading from our curriculum. We don't have the mastery of language and penmanship of our ancestors. We think of our great grandparents as being unschooled but they could write circles around us and I wouldn't want to take any of them on in a debate.

There is a current article in The Guardian about the cognitive benefits of cursive writing. Many handwriting advocates and neuroscientists think that penmanship is still mightier than the keyboard, that mastering penmanship has certain cognitive benefits. This makes sense to me. Every letter on the keyboard requires the same action: peck peck peck, while each letter of the alphabet requires a different stroke, engaging our brains in deep thought.  It takes us several years to master this precise motor skill. Cursive writing might even stave off Alzheimer's, that dreaded disease that is predicted to affect 50% of the population by 2050.

The keyboard can't match the emotion of handwriting. As stated in this article, "Each persons' hand is different, the gesture is charged with emotion, lending it a special charm." Maybe this is why those little icons that show emotion were invented, to make up for the soulless keyboard.

So, as I sit down to write a letter to my dad, (even found a pad of unused stationery in a desk drawer) I thought I'd throw out a challenge to everyone. Write a letter to someone this Christmas. It'll make someone's day.

11 comments:

Frances Garrood said...

I think your dad''s idea is lovely, Yvonne. Sadly, though, I can't take up your challenge as nobody can read my writing. I'd love to do better - | even tried practising - but to no avail.

Yvonne Osborne said...

Frances,
Thank you! Are you sure nobody can read your writing? Come on....really really sure?! Merry Christmas!

Anthony Duce said...

I think this is a great idea. My parents are to old and won’t take on using computers, and they aren’t much for talking on the phone. I print out typed letters from my laptop and send them, usually along with copies of sketches and photos, but it’s not the same.
I remember the beautifully flowing handwriting of my mom and the letters we once shared. My dad’s handwriting showed how he struggled in the forming of each of his word, showing the effort he had gone to, to communicate with me.

Yvonne Osborne said...

Tony,
So many of the elderly cannot, will not take on computers and it is sad to think that we are leaving them behind. Dad hears me talking about "email" communications and I think that both he and my mother feel left out. His is such a simple, heartfelt request, it really made me sit up and take notice. Thanks for sharing what you remember of your mom and dad's handwriting.

Wendy said...

Letter writing is a dying art sadly. And I am as much to blame as the next person.

Doesn't help that my handwriting is appalling - and always has been. And if memory serves me correctly, the only thing I pen these days is my shopping list.

Oh, and I think your dads got it right. It would indeed be a nice gift to read a handwritten letter from your children.

Yvonne Osborne said...

Thanks, Wendy.
It's so funny....all my siblings are like....handwritten? Can I type it??
No, you cannot. You must place your elbow on a firm surface and relax your shoulders and move that pen!!

Frances Garrood said...

Yvonne, yes. I'm really really hand on heart sure. People complain ever year about the indecipherable messages I put in Christmas cards. Oddly, my children and husband have no trouble. I've never understood that.

Jemi Fraser said...

What a lovely challenge! I will take you up on it. We have some students in school who've started their schooling in other countries and they start cursive writing in their first year of school. Makes for beautiful penmanship!

Yvonne Osborne said...

Jemi,
Thank you and thanks for tweeting this. I think it is so important and one more instance of other countries being leaps and bounds ahead of us.

Pet said...

Writing letters was great. I used to write many up to my twenties. And you are right, somehow emails are not quite the same. May be because they travel too quick and do not let the feelings to repose (yo can get an answer in minutes, and answer back in minutes too!)
But we didn't have blogs then, and they are great (like yours).
A tip: I write my posts first on my Moleskine, in English, copy them on my laptop, and translate them straight there, freely, into Spanish. A enjoyable compromise.

Yvonne Osborne said...

Hi Pet,
I assume a moleskine is like a notepad? I think we're all getting a little lazy when it comes to handwritten letters. I'm still not done with my dad's!

Thank you very much for the nice compliment.