Last month, at the Pioneer Network 2013 Conference, a session entitled “Networking Elders to Provide Them with a Greater Voice,” engaged audience members by inviting Elders themselves to talk about their peer networking and advocacy work. These Elders were introduced as members of an organization called “Seniors Aid New Hampshire” (SANH). They are a community of Elders that live in Nursing Homes, Assisted Living and Independent living settings throughout their state. With the help of a conference call line, they have joined together each month over the past seven years to host senators, state representatives and members of government agencies in addition to advancing their own community organizing and advocacy agenda. As a result of their organizing, these Elders even provided video testimony in a Senate Committee hearing regarding medication administration.
SANH began in the summer of 2006, when Elders living at different Nursing Homes and Assisted-Living communities in New Hampshire determined that it was “unacceptable for people to go to bed hungry.” The group was assisted by the New Hampshire Health Care Association in creating a forum for fund-raising and communication to occur. In the early years this group called themselves “Seniors Feed New Hampshire” and in the first year alone raised $42K to assist the New Hampshire Food Bank. In later years the group gained momentum, changed their name and began to focus on other areas of interest that provide opportunities for meaningful resident work and creating communication between Elders living in different long-term care residences across the state.
The session at the Pioneer Network Conference was facilitated by Darlene Cray, a Long-Term Care Ombudsman and Statewide Volunteer Coordinator in New Hampshire and Mark Latham, Administrator of Pleasant View Center, a Nursing Home in Concord, New Hampshire. In addition to the panel of SANH members, Kathleen Otte from the Administration for Community Living also joined by phone, as well as Jennifer Hilliard, Public Policy Attorney from Leading Age and representatives from Senator Larsen’s office. During the session, Darlene Cray reminded attendees that “When we focus on the ability of the individual, we see Elders.”
The American Healthcare Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) named Seniors Aid New Hampshire as their 2012 National Group Volunteer of the Year.