Two residents of a nursing home hold up cards they received from a community mail program
Senior residents at Kimes Nursing and Rehabilitation Center receive their Smile Mail from Athens residents. ( Courtesy: Kimes Nursing and Rehabilitation Center)

Smile Mail Shortens Social Distance for Seniors in Nursing Homes

Posted on:

< < Back to

ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) —  COVID-19 related deaths in nursing homes accounts for 40% of all the COVID-19 related deaths in Ohio . Nationwide, COVID-19 related deaths in nursing homes account for one-third of all U.S. deaths, according to data collected by the New York Times.

Potential underlying health conditions of older populations, as well as living in confined spaces, makes nursing home residents more vulnerable to contagious diseases. Because social distancing and visiting bans have been strictly enforced in these facilities feelings of isolation have increased.

“It’s heartbreaking to me that they are not currently allowed to have visitors,” says Laura O’Neil, Outreach Services Manager for the Athens County Public Libraries (ACPL).

Members of the Chesser family, one of several Athens families taking the time to craft encouraging mail for the elderly population isolated in nursing homes during the pandemic. (Courtesy: Chesser family)

If seniors cannot get visits, they can at least get mail from people in the community showing them that they are not alone and not forgotten.

And so O’Neil started Smile Mail.  The program allows seniors to get encouraging mail from any member of the community who wants to write to them.  “It’s my hope that Smile Mail will serve as a bright spot for our seniors until visitors can return.”

She got the idea from a similar program in Billings Public Library in Montana, “I thought we could easily replicate the program here in Athens County by encouraging residents to send drawings and notes of encouragement to local seniors.”

And the ACPL program is making a difference.

“The residents love the fact that they are receiving such inspiring mail,” says Deena Webster, Activity Director at Kimes Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, one of the nursing homes receiving Smile Mail.

“It’s such a blessing to our residents who are enjoying mail that usually don’t receive any,” adds Webster.

Children and adults have been crafting cards and sending them to local nursing homes. The mail gets a few days quarantined before being delivered to the nursing home residents.

According to the ACPL web-page, anyone can help “brighten a senior’s day by sending them a drawing, card, or note of encouragement!” The following nursing homes are accepting Smile Mail:
Kimes Nursing & Rehab Center

Attn: Deena Webster

75 Kimes Ln

Athens OH  45701


The Laurels of Athens

Attn: Activities Staff

70 Columbus Cir

Athens OH  45701


Close to Home

5176 Washington Rd

Albany OH  45710


Arcadia Valley Skilled Nursing & Rehab

Attn: Activities Staff

25675 E Main St

Coolville OH  45723



Hickory Creek of Athens

Attn: Activities Staff

51 E 4th St

The Plains OH  45780


The Lindley Inn

Attn: Angie Cleland

9000 Hocking Hills Dr

The Plains OH  45780