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JFS Senior Family Mentoring Program

The Good Fortune We Have to Meet Wonderful People Like Rose

By Jeanne Lankin, LCSW, JFS Senior Family Mentor Program

We recently had the good fortune to meet a very engaging and energetic 95 year old who continued to surprise us and inspire us for the 10 months we knew her. Rose, who lived for the last year at an Assisted Living facility in our area, was referred to JFS because she wasn't feeling herself. For most of her 95 years, Rose was a very active person putting her all into everything she did. Rose, in a word, was a “doer”.

Early on, when one of her children was born with developmental problems, Rose raised him to the best of her ability and advocated for him during an era where there were few services for developmentally disabled children. When her son reached bar mitzvah age, she was instrumental in starting a Hebrew School for Special Children and later Rose's persistence helped to develop an organization which created the first group homes for adults in her area, with her son's challenges , so that he and others could live in the dignity of their own home.

And, once these challenges had been successfully, met Rose went on to volunteer, for many years, at local hospitals helping to support families during difficult times. Rose was a wise woman who emphasized the importance of family, religion and kindness to others. As one of her sons stated, “my mother had compassion for people in need, she would go on 42nd street in NYC and bring beggars on the street into a restaurant to buy them food.” You can see from these examples, Rose was not one to settle for the status quo. She appreciated her independence and she tried to help others whenever possible.

Rose came to our attention about 10 months ago when she was a new resident at a local Assisted Living Facility. She mentioned that she did not know how she would ever adjust to not being independent. She was used to being active and a doer, always helping others but the move to assisted living signified a change in her life and the need for support for herself.

This was a new situation for her and it had her feeling down. Being active and helping others was so much a part of her life and now she felt she had no way to help or be useful. As our social worker got to know Rose she thought Rose would be an excellent candidate for our senior mentoring program which offers community volunteers as companions to seniors. This program grew out of our successful family mentoring program where social workers train volunteers from the community and match them with families and now seniors.

When looking for an appropriate volunteer/friendly visitor for Rose, the JFS social worker found a recently retired Reading and English teacher who also had a history of ongoing volunteer work in hospitals, counseling coronary by-pass patients and giving of her time in a meaningful way. This volunteer also worked with Russian immigrants teaching them English and preparing them to become citizens. When the two ladies met last year there was an instant connection. Rose perked up and engaged with the volunteer/mentor in a way she hadn't with others.

Despite ongoing health problems Rose got back to being a doer again contributing her energy and time as a volunteer in the Assisted Living Memory Unit. According to the activities director at the facility, Rose worked individually with a lady with memory problems and exhibited a great deal of patience and kindness to the resident. Rose was involved with the welcoming committee and functioned as the ambassador from the facility for new residents.

She was such a wonderful role model for new residents who were able to see a 95 year old woman who was so high functioning and a mentor. Rose was able to cope with her adjustment to the Assisted Living with the support of her family mentor and more importantly it reactivated her sense of making a contribution in her new community. She was able to change her perspective through the involvement of a caring individual.

According to Rose's mentor, “people pass through our lives, often for a short time but leave a deep and lasting imprint. This was my experience with Rose.” Our sages tell us “one good deed leads to another” and the evidence is clear in this relationship.

A goal of the JFS mentoring program is to help seniors who live in the community or in a facility to live their lives to the best of their ability despite the challenges of aging, illness and other problems that exist due to advanced years. When a trained senior mentor gets involved with a senior, the relationship that is formed is one based on continuity, honesty and unconditional support and regard for the other person.

Our mentor filled this role beautifully and helped Rose to once again be the person she had always been, a contributor to her community and a help to those around her through 60 years of community service. .

If you are interested in knowing more about the JFS Family Mentor Program or getting involved as a volunteer, please contact us at 908.725.7799. We can also be found at www.jewishfamilysvc.org and on facebook.