Riverview pen-pal program an example of creating social inclusion for residents

RPN/BSO lead discusses how a recent OMNIway story about the importance of social inclusion ties in with a program two staff members created

PETERBOROUGH, Ont. – A recent OMNIway story about the importance of social inclusion for seniors caught the eye of Riverview Manor registered practical nurse (RPN) and Behavioural Supports Ontario (BSO) lead Becky Dennie, who notes how a pen-pal program two team members at the Peterborough long-term care home recently created ties in with this message.

In May, personal support worker Karlie Phillips and life enrichment aide Allison Juniper came up with an idea for a meaningful activity for a resident who had been leaving “inappropriate notes” for staff members.

Since the resident enjoyed writing, the pair developed a pen-pal program where she could focus her writing abilities on something positive.

Allison also works at Burnbrae Gardens, an OMNI Health Care home in Campbellford, and knew a resident there who would benefit from such a program.

The Riverview resident wrote her first letter to the Burnbrae resident about five weeks ago. Allison delivered the letter during a shift at Burnbrae Gardens. The Burnbrae resident then wrote a letter back.

The residents have been writing to each other about their hobbies, where they have travelled, where they grew up and their occupations.

In fact, the pen-pal program has been so beneficial to the residents involved that they’re both interested in meeting at some point.

The June 17 OMNIway story discusses a campaign launched by the Canadian Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (CNPEA) and Elder Abuse Ontario (EAO) focusing on how social inclusion is important as we age. Its message struck a chord with Becky.

“(Through the pen-pal program) we are helping prevent isolation with some of our residents,” Becky says.

While long-term care residents benefit from programming and interaction with other residents and staff members, it’s also emotionally healthy for them to have connections outside their regular circles, and the pen-pal program is an example of how this can be achieved, she adds.

“It’s really impressive how Karlie and Allison came up with this idea,” Becky says. “Long-term care homes often don’t have the funds to take many outings to social events … so something like (the pen-pal program) is huge.”

If you have a story you would like to share with The OMNIway, please contact the newsroom at deron(at)axiomnews.com.

If you have feedback on this story, please contact the newsroom at deron(at)axiomnews.com.