Older adults are a growing and increasingly vital part of our country. The contributions they make to our communities are varied, deeply rooted, and include influential roles in the nation’s economy, politics, and the arts. From 69-year-old NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, Jr. to 84-year-old actress Rita Moreno to 83-year-old Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who took her seat as a Supreme Court Justice at the age of 60, older adults are blazing trails in many influential aspects of American life.
The Older Americans Month started in 1963, when President John F. Kennedy designated May as Senior Citizens Month. This annual observance offers the opportunity to learn about, support, and celebrate our nation’s mature citizens. This year’s theme, ‘Blaze a Trail,’ emphasizes the ways that older adults continue to reinvent themselves through new careers and new passions, engaging their communities, and blazing a trail of positive impact within the lives of people of all ages.
While JFCS provides a multitude of services to older adults year-round, we use Older Americans Month to focus on how we can best support and learn from our seniors. Gail Belfer, Director of the JFCS Senior Services Department, says, “It is a very appropriate time to pay attention to Holocaust Survivors served by JFCS, and how they are enriching the lives of other generations who visit with them during JFCS’s monthly Café Europa luncheons.” Holocaust Remembrance Day-Yom Hashoah – will take place on Thursday, May 5th. During the month of May, JFCS will indeed celebrate our Holocaust Survivors, both within our local Southern New Jersey community and in Vineland by hosting two intergenerational Café Europa programs. Café Europa is proudly held in conjunction with The Goodwin Holocaust Museum and Education Center which takes an active role in coordinating visits by local students. These important programs provide an opportunity for high school students to interface with Holocaust Survivors and to learn, firsthand, about their experiences during the Shoah.
Through JFCS’s Café Europa luncheon program which is held throughout the year, Holocaust Survivors are provided with an important opportunity to build friendships, enjoy community and tell their stories to young people who are studying the Holocaust as part of the school curriculum. The importance of bringing the realities of the Shoah to young people is one that is immeasurable. The students learn the stories of resiliency and hope by Survivors. . . stories that truly leave a lasting impact.
Encouraging the betterment of seniors’ health and well-being helps them to live fuller, more satisfying lives. Each and every day, JFCS’s Senior Service Department is committed to this mission by providing the programs and services needed to make sure that our senior population can live fulfilling and safe lives.
Tim Rice, managing partner of Timothy Rice Estate and Elder Law, and sponsor of the JFCS Encore! widow / widowers social discussion support group, says, “My associates and I know how valuable a support group such as JFCS’ Encore! can be, and we are pleased to support it, as well as offer document reviews such as advanced medical directives and financial/legal powers of attorney at no cost to all participants, to help accomplish their planning goals.”
JFCS is further expanding the services of our senior veterans through our Take the Wheel transportation program. Nearly 20% of veterans cite transportation as a major hurdle to accessing healthcare. We will continue to put the wheels of progress in motion to make sure that they receive the care they deserve.
In the last year alone, the senior services department served over 3,600 seniors living in Camden, Burlington and Gloucester counties. Over 1,800 in-person social work and nursing services visits were provided to help seniors build a support system, assist them in living independently, and address challenges related to aging and grief. Another 7,100 hours of homecare services, such as personal care and companion care, driving companions, housekeeping and shopping assistance were provided as well. Innovative program and groups launched includ bullying prevention for seniors to curtail bullying and empower individuals to get involved if they see it happening within their senior community, and a new vision loss support group. Joan*, an older adult who attends the group for vision loss, says, “I have found answers about issues I didn’t want to talk about. Now I feel safe to speak about my fears, and get real answers on how to cope with changes. I feel like a weight is lifted off my heart because there are people there for me.”
Whether seniors come to JFCS for counseling provided by one of our talented social services staff, join one of our support groups, accept food assistance or legal guidance – or are sharing their stories and wisdom for the benefit of another generation – JFCS is committed to caring for our seniors and honoring the trails they have blazed for themselves and us during Older Americans Month and all year through. For more information on any of the events, groups, or services listed – or for a comprehensive overview of or all of the services JFCS offers to older Americans – please call 856-424-1333.