April 27, 2020 – by Jessica Moran
WMUR Channel 9
Residents look forward to receiving letters
MANCHESTER, N.H. – A local nursing home has reached out to the community to help prevent socially isolating its seniors The Sullivan County Health Care Center in Unity started writing to residents at Summercrest Senior Living Community in Newport, creating a bridge in the form of letters. Now, the center is expanding to anyone willing to correspond.
So far, the center has received letters from not only Granite Staters, but also Massachusetts and Vermont.
“It’s just gotten bigger than we expected it to, but it’s wonderful,” said Rich Vanderweit from Sullivan County Health Care. “The residents really look forward to getting the letters.”
The letter writing began when senior living facilities began restricting visitors due to the coronavirus pandemic. The letter writing is, in part, a preemptive measure to reduce social isolation, an issue those who work in the mental health field are concerned about.
“We do know that social isolation can have the same impact as some of our chronic diseases, cardias issues,” said Anne Marie Olsen-Hayward, a social worker and program director at the Referral, Education, Assistance and Prevention program for older adults. “It complicates our disease, it can actually be painful for some clients who already have some baseline depression or anxiety.”
Olsen-Hayward assists those over 60. She is concerned older adults will stop taking care of themselves because others are not checking in. She applauded the pen pal program and encourages all of us to do our part.
“I think every morning if one of us said, who am I reaching out to today? How powerful would that be for our communities,” Olsen-Hayward said.
The pen pal program is scheduled to continue after the pandemic is over. You can write anonymously if you wish, or you can include information on how to write back.
For information on reaching out to seniors call your local community mental health center, or contact NH servicelink https://www.servicelink.nh.gov/ or call REAP at 603-957-5913.
Letters can be sent to the activities department at Sullivan County Health Care in Unity at:
Sullivan County Health Care
5 Nursing Home Drive
Unity, NH 03743