IN THE NEWS: Helping the homebound: Volunteers needed to spend time with seniors

Lois K. Solomon

Sun Sentinel

Jul 3, 2014

Family Service seeks friendly companions for frail senior citizens

Social workers say there's a simple improvement that can be made in the lives of homebound senior citizens: A friendly visitor who makes conversation and keeps the senior company.

The Ruth & Norman Rales Jewish Family Services is looking for more of these reliable companions, who volunteer for an hour a week to lighten up the lives of ailing seniors. The service has a waiting list of 10 people who seek such visitors.

"We don't want to have anyone on the waiting list," said Danielle Hartman, the family service's president. "There are a lot of lonely seniors who don't have family, don't drive and for health reasons have to stay in their homes. There's a high chance of them becoming lonely and depressed."

Hartman said the family service wants to keep aging seniors in their homes and stimulated instead of moving them into nursing homes. The service, a beneficiary agency of the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County, has about 500 frail senior clients in Delray Beach and Boca Raton.

Volunteer Michael Stern said visiting Lester Rosenblum, 94, who rarely leaves his Delray Beach home, is a highlight of his week.

"I never look at my watch," said Stern, 65, of Boca Raton. "Seniors have a wealth of knowledge. You can learn a lot from them."

Stern said he and Rosenblum, the retired owner of a New Hampshire manufacturing company, discuss current events, world history and Rosenblum's take on life. Stern said he never got to know his own grandparents, who died in the Holocaust, and always yearned for more older people in his life.

"They discuss anything that has happened in the world to this point," said Rosenblum's wife, Thelma.

Social workers say such stimulation is key to keeping up the spirits of the homebound. Many seniors' worst fear is losing their independence and having to move into a nursing home, even more than they fear death, according to a 2007 study, "Aging in Place in America." A 2010 report from Israel showed homebound status was linked to depression and higher risk of mortality.

For the past five years, Sandy Marks of Boca Raton has been visiting a 68-year-old woman who had a stroke. A retired social worker, Marks said she is familiar with the isolation and despair often felt by the homebound. Her companion was on the waiting list for two years before she was connected with Marks.

"These are people who are locked in their apartments and really don't have anybody," Marks said. "It takes time to build the relationship. But now I am receiving as much as she is receiving."

Nadine Greenberg, the family service's director of volunteers, said the agency is looking for good listeners who are compassionate and can be counted on to visit their senior each week. Call Greenberg at 561-852-3357 for more information.


Lsolomon@tribune.com
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Ruth & Norman Rales Jewish Family Services (JFS) provides help, hope and humanity through a comprehensive range of programs and services which support people of all ages and beliefs. With locations in Boca Raton and Delray Beach, JFS programs and services include food and financial assistance, senior services, career & employment services, counseling and mental health services and many volunteer opportunities. Funding is provided by private and corporate support, grants, special events and individuals who reach thousands in need each year. For more information about JFS call 561-852-3333. Learn more at www.ralesjfs.org.

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