Telewellness Playbook

This playbook is designed to help senior affordable housing providers connect with locally available, community-based resources to build sustainable mental and behavioral health programs, and to identify and meet the needs of residents living with depression, anxiety, and loneliness.

Drawing upon nearly a decade of telehealth program experiences primarily serving older adult residents of affordable housing communities, and a successful 2016 pilot study that has today expanded to multiple locations, the Front Porch Center for Innovation and Wellbeing designed this playbook of best practices for other providers to establish technology-based behavioral health programs in their own communities.

The impact of social isolation and loneliness among older adults cannot be understated. A 2019 National Institute of Health (NIH) study reported that social isolation and loneliness are linked to higher risks for a variety of physical and mental conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, anxiety/ depression, cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease, and even death. The consequences of loneliness and social isolation extend beyond the individual to negatively affect caregivers, the healthcare system, and the general economy.

The mental wellbeing of older adult residents of affordable housing are important focal points of concern: LeadingAge conducted a national survey of its affordable housing members in late 2021 to assess challenges in addressing the needs of its residents throughout the COVID crisis. Their report noted that “Resident mental health issues came ahead of every other available response, including staffing, funding, inspections, compliance, staffing, vaccine mandates, vacancy issues, fair housing issues, and disaster preparedness,” at 54.7%. 


Front Porch and the Front Porch Center for Innovation and Wellbeing would like to extend our great appreciation to the AARP Foundation for making this resource possible and freely available to senior affordable housing providers, senior service organizations, and community mental health programs. Other funders who have financially supported the critical work of our playbook over many years include the CTA Foundation, LeadingAge Innovation Fund, and California Lutheran Homes. We would also like to thank the many partners and service organizations who have contributed to the collective services, research, lessons, and program success of the Telewellness Program including Special Service for Groups (SSG) SILVER, Richmond Area Multi-Services (RAMS), the ERB Foundation, and Dr. Aaron Hagedorn.

Thank you to our small but mighty group of test readers Diana Chu of Asian Wellness Therapy, Sara Choi of Front Porch, Dr. Kathleen Weissberg from Select Rehabilitation, Susan Stiles of the National Council on Aging, and Orion Bell and Beth Sipple of the Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging.

The Telewellness Playbook is dedicated to the residents, service coordinators, and managers of our Front Porch affordable housing partner CARING Housing Ministries who have helped us demonstrate the importance—and possibilities—of taking on the challenges of older adult mental health and wellness.

  1. What is Telewellness?

  2. Summary of research on social isolation and loneliness

  3. The impact of COVID and social distancing on older adult wellness

  1. Assessing community culture; establish staff and resident receptiveness

  2. Assessing community need and impact: baseline surveys, behavioral health tools; tracking and reporting during program

  1. Available community behavioral health services and resources

  1. Broadband/ Wi-Fi connectivity support

  2. Device selection/ adoption

  1. Self-activation through education and awareness

  2. Outreach materials: asset and collateral development

  3. Developing resident and staff trainings

  4. Cultural and linguistic considerations

  1. Establishing protocols and procedures

  2. Kick-off event and community program awareness