An ongoing mission of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia's Center for Social Responsibility is to design programs that enable the Jewish community's elderly to age with grace and dignity while remaining in their homes.
Some 20 percent of people living in Jewish households are 65 or over, according to the "1996/97 Jewish Population Study of Greater Philadelphia." Because a significant percentage of that population lives in Northeast Philadelphia, the Coordinating Council for the Elderly - a Federation task force chaired by Karen Kramer - has developed initiatives in neighborhoods like Bustleton Somerton, which has 8,000 Jewish elderly. The neighborhood is designated as one of Philadelphia's naturally occurring retirement communities, or NORCs.
Recently SeniorCHAI, a NORC supportive-services program, was introduced there. The program is a collaborative effort of Federation, the Jewish Family and Children's Service, the Jewish Employment and Vocational Service, the Jewish Community Centers Klein Branch and Federation Housing.
"Whether the need is transportation, health or human services, a repairman or socialization, the program's member services representatives connect the elderly with an array of services and help make them readily accessible," said Sam Rosen the Center for Social Responsibility's SeniorCHAI project manager.
"Often, the elderly feel isolated or confused about where to turn for a service," he explained. Member services representatives make it easier - and seamless - to create connections for people to obtain what they need while remaining in their homes.
"Some elderly need assistance with minor home repairs or chores like changing a light bulb or smoke-detector battery that is out of their reach," added Rosen. "Help with such simple tasks is critical in creating a safe home environment and preventing injuries."
SeniorCHAI is an expansion of JFCS' STAR program, one of 42 such programs nationwide to receive federal funding over the last four years.
"Not only are we serving the elderly, we are developing models that are replicable for all types of communities and last into the next generation," said Rosen.
"We live in a different world today," pointed out Kramer. "In the past, multiple generations lived under one roof and cared for one another. We have a responsibility to care for our elderly, and ensure that they live in a safe, secure and comfortable environment.
"A unique aspect of SeniorCHAI is that members have a real person whom they can call and who will call to check on them; whether they need a medical referral or the phone number of a home repair service," she continued. "The representative is a friend and reliable source, providing them with peace of mind."
SeniorCHAI also has socialization programs in place at the Congregations of Shaare Shamayim, Temple Beth Ami and the JCC Klein Branch - all in the Northeast. These monthly luncheons include transportation. Member-services representatives are present to answer questions, and facilitate basic health screenings and consultations on concerns such as nutrition.
Lunch is followed by a presentation geared toward improving individual health and well-being, on topics such as exercise, flexibility, spirituality, humor and diet. Sessions are led by social workers, physical therapists and exercise experts.
"SeniorCHAI is a cost-effective way for people to stay in their homes and grow old," stated Sheva Cohen, senior planner for the center. "And, these connections are being made now, before they are frail. As one ages, services can be accessed as needed."
"It is a great source of comfort," she said, "to know that if a service or community connection is needed, it will be provided."
For more information or to become a member, call 1-866-229-6672.
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