Loneliness. Dementia. Loss of mobility. The passing of lifelong friends, spouses, and even their own children. Fear of everyday activities, such as going to doctor appointments. Choosing between paying for groceries and prescription medications. Misplacing important paperwork or vital instructions from family members and doctors. Losing their way while on simple walks or short trips away from their home. Unable to bathe regularly or clean their living space. Each and every day, seniors all over our region grapple with one or more of the above situations, and more.
The Senior Services Department at JFCS responds to the needs of our community’s seniors through many vital initiatives including the Patient Partners Program, Kosher Meals on Wheels, friendly visitors, home healthcare aides, housekeeping services, Holocaust Survivor services, widow / widower support groups, Jewish hospice services, and the Peter and Betsy Fischer Food Pantry. Even with all that JFCS does on behalf of this population, it is still just the beginning of what we can all do to ensure that the Golden Years are, indeed, golden and we therefore need your help.
The Torah considers old age a virtue and a blessing. Throughout the Torah, ‘old’ (zakein) is synonymous with ‘wise’. The Torah commands us to respect all elderly, regardless of their scholarship and piety, because the many trials and experiences that each additional year of life brings yield a wisdom which the most accomplished young prodigy cannot equal. It describes Abraham as one who ‘grew old and came along in days’ (Genesis 24:1) – his accumulated days, each replete with learning and achievement, meant that with each passing day his worth increased. Thus, a ripe old age is regarded as one of the greatest blessings to be bestowed upon a person.
The underlying message is that it is up to each of us to dignify the elderly by simply respecting the journey that they have been on and to ensure that their experience is meaningful and positive. You don’t need to hold a degree in psychology to pay visits to those seniors that you care about, or to assist a senior with her household jobs. You don’t need a certification as a home health aide in order to take interest in the health of a senior citizen or to make sure their prescriptions are filled. Nor does one need a culinary background to prepare a home-cooked meal for a financially-struggling senior, or to bring snacks and smiles to an older person in your neighborhood.
While our seniors need practical care and clinicians, they also need something very simple: they need us. They need our presence. They need us to listen. They need us to care and take notice. As you may already know, our elderly comrades rejoice in our company. They feel complete when they can share their stories and enjoy company from a friendly visitor. Additionally they look to us to assuage fears and to act as a confidante.
During the winter months, your visit and contact may be of vital importance to ensuring overall health for our seniors. During the cold of the season, as temperatures drop, complications in health conditions can arise, especially for the older population. As a person ages, it is increasingly difficult to gauge body temperature. During your visit, make sure that the house is warm enough. Make sure there is proper ventilation. Make sure leaves and ice are removed from walkways and steps. Assist folks as they enjoy outside activities, and advise against outings during extreme weather situations. You might also want to consider supplying the JFCS food pantries with additional food items during these important months, so that we can meet the increase in demand for food for our seniors.
Our elders have paved the way for subsequent generations to enjoy the lives we lead and the opportunities that have been afforded us. Although society often subscribes to the notion that the future lies with youth, we can never forget to recognize the valuable lessons that older people can teach us and to dignify their lives. By opening up and listening, sharing time, and assisting them through challenges, we can help them mentally, physically, and emotionally. For information on our senior programs, please call 856-424-1333 or visit JFCS at www.jfcssnj.org.