Kallie Inman, the Life Enrichment Assistant at Sunset Village, was trying to find new ways to engage the seniors who lived at Sunset Village, when she started a Veterans Group. Turns out, about 17.75% of residents at Sunset Village are military veterans, and Kallie wanted to create a space for them to meet, engage with each other, host discussions, remember, and celebrate. That monthly meeting was going well – with 16 or so veterans attending regularly. Then Kallie had an idea on how to make it even better.
“I thought we could do a pen pal program,” said Kallie. “I reached out to about 50 colleges and universities across the country, including West Point, the University of Indiana, Notre Dame, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Auburn and the Air Force Academy about having our residents communicate with their students.”
Campuses like Yale, Ohio State University, Clemson, Perdue, Penn State, University of Pennsylvania, Baylor, Alabama, Florida State, Mississippi, Pitt, and Vanderbilt were quick to respond and join the list to correspond with the residents at Sunset Village. The University of Toledo’s ROTC students have visited Sunset Village multiple times.
Marilynn Baldwin is one of the residents who signed up to communicate with the students. She has been in touch with approximately 25 students, many of whom are either attending a military academy or participating in their college or university’s ROTC program.
“I’m very interested in the military,” Marilynn said. “I have a son and two grandsons who went to West Point, and I have continued being very interested in military education.”
Marilynn, who has a background in social work, enjoyed getting to know the students, hearing more about their educational experience and what they’ve decided to go to school for.
In addition to writing letters, residents often video chat with students. These video chats are an opportunity for ROTC students, those who will become military leaders, to ask the veterans questions about their military service, life in the military, and more.
Some schools, like Auburn, have students participate as part of their class – residents will join the video chat at Sunset Village, and then students will rotate between attending class and participating in the video chat.
This opportunity for social engagement is a major component of staying well for many of the seniors at Sunset Village. The social dimension is one of seven dimensions of wellness that are a key focus to keep everyone, including seniors, healthy and well. Addressing all seven of these dimensions is one of the many benefits of choosing to live in a community like Sunset Village.