With autumn leaves falling and a nip in the air, many area residents are beginning to prepare their homes for winter.
Household chores like sealing drafty windows and doors, changing smoke-detector batteries and raking leaves may be easy tasks for some. Yet for many senior citizens, such simple chores are difficult or insurmountable. Getting help with these tasks and others, like minor home repairs, can make a world of difference.
One goal of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia's Center for Social Responsibility is to enable the elderly to age with dignity while remaining independent in their homes. With that in mind, about a year ago the center established programs within Northeast Philadelphia neighborhoods where a significant number of seniors reside, many of whom have become increasingly isolated.
In Rhawnhurst and Bustleton-Somerton, initiatives are in place to serve residents of naturally occurring retirement communities or NORCs.
The Rhawnhurst NORC and SeniorCHAI have been successful in connecting seniors with an array of services as needed. Both NORCs will hold their Winterization Days to help residents prepare their homes for winter. In Rhawnhurst, it will take place Sunday, Oct. 29; for Senior CHAI it will be Sunday, Nov. 12. Both will take place from noon to 4 p.m.
"The beauty of the Winterization Day is that the entire community is mobilized," said Elaine Griffin, Rhawnhurst NORC project coordinator. "It's about neighbors helping neighbors and community interaction at its best. A simple task like changing a light bulb or fixing a leaky faucet can make a big difference in a senior's life."
Griffin noted that volunteers of all ages have stepped forward to take part, including families, community partners from Citizens Bank and students from the Orleans Technical Institute.
According to Sam Rosen, SeniorCHAI project manager, "needs assessments are conducted in homes ahead of time. So on Winterization Day in both areas, volunteers are prepared with tools and supplies in hand. They have a list of where they'll be going and tasks to be completed."
Though the need is great, he emphasized that if volunteers can't reach everyone, they'll return another day to complete the job.
SeniorCHAI Winterization Day volunteers were recruited from throughout Philadelphia, and include college students from area Hillels and those active with Federation's Renaissance Group.
Griffin is pleased with the outpouring of support, such as a $2,000 grant awarded to the Rhawnhurst NORC from the Rotary Club of Northeast Sunrisers and the Gundaker Foundation for supplies.
In Rhawnhurst and SeniorCHAI — whether the need is a home repair, a medical referral or where to take dry-cleaning — seniors gain a sense of comfort from connecting with other people.
The Rhawnhurst NORC is an ecumenical program for those over 60 residing in a private home or apartment.
A collaborative effort of three partner agencies: Federation, Catholic Human Services and the United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania, outreach workers are dispersed throughout the community, keeping a pulse on residents' needs.
SeniorCHAI, in Bustleton-Somerton, with some 8,000 Jewish elderly, is a membership NORC and a collaboration of five partner agencies: Federation, Jewish Family and Children's Service, Jewish Employment and Vocational Service, the Jewish Community Centers Klein Branch and Federation Housing. A $36 annual fee ensures that seniors stay connected with a member-services representative.
"The seniors are so grateful for what the volunteers are doing," said Griffin. "One way they express their appreciation is by baking cookies for them. It's a wonderful day — a 'win-win' situation for everyone!"
For more information on SeniorCHAI, call Sam Rosen at 215-832-0542. For Rhawnhurst NORC, call Elaine Griffin at 215-728-1330.