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Group Helps Elders In Caring Ways

As the years accumulate — slowly at first, and faster as time goes by — many people find themselves in their twilight years struggling to retain the independence that defined their adult lives for many a year; for some, this is harder than others, and a helping hand in this situation can indeed be a blessing.

Abe Kirschman works for the Town of Oyster Bay out of the Mid-Island Y Jewish Community Center of Plainview, assigned to POB CARES, as he has done so for the past seven years and counting. POB CARES is a Neighborhood Naturally Occurring Retirement Community (NNORC), which is primarily a volunteer-driven organization that is dedicated to helping the elder members of the community, free of charge. Kirschman said that the only requirements for aid are that someone be over the age of 60 and a resident of Plainvew-Old Bethpage.

“We drive people to doctors in the immediate area, we take them shopping, we do minor home repairs, we have a veterans group, and we hold a series of health chats at the Plainview-Old Bethpage Library,” he said. “We hold them every month at the library on the second Thursday, from 1 p.m. to 2.p.m., and we have had various doctors and physical therapists on all types of topics related to senior health.”

Kirschman, a former commercial credit analyst who survived two corporate downsizings, now enjoys a completely different calling in his capacity as a helper to the more vulnerable members of the community.

“People need these services,” he said. “This is to help people age well within their own homes before there is a need for nursing homes or assisted living. We can help them stay in their houses longer.”

Maria Mantione is a pharmacist who works with King Kullen; she is also a professor at St. John’s University. She has been a volunteer with POB CARES for quite some time, and she was attending today’s meeting at the Plainview-Old Bethpage Library to give a lecture on the safe use of over-the-counter medications for seniors.

“I mostly talk about how to talk to your pharmacist about choosing over-the-counter medication, making sure they know all of the over-the-counter medication, as well as vitamins, minerals, supplements, pain relievers...any medication that they need to take,” she said. “We go class by class — pain medication, stomach medication, allergy medication, and so on — and discuss which ones are the best choices for seniors and which ones are best avoided.”

Janet Golon, a nurse from North Shore-LIJ Health System, has been affiliated with POB CARES on a regular basis for quite some time as well; she noted that North Shore-LIJ has always offered a variety of free services to seniors.

“My role is to help those 60 and over in this community to meet our mission of aging in place safely,” she said. “To that end, we try to provide health promotion programs such as our health education program that we’re holding here today at the library; after the pharmacist holds her lecture on over-the-counter medications, I will have blood pressure screenings available for the attendees.”

Kirschman said that, while POB CARES is successful at helping those who may be falling a step behind, the organization itself could actually use a helping hand of its own in the form of concerned citizens who can donate their time and energy for a good cause.

“We need more volunteers,” he said. “We’re always looking for them...people who are willing to drive, to shop for people, and attend our board meetings. If anyone is interested, they can call us and we can send them an application.”

Francis Steigele of Plainview said that she’s been attending the POB CARES meetings ever since they started at the library seven years ago.

“A lot of the topics are very interesting, and I like to learn about them. It’s educational,” she said. “Recently they’ve held lectures on arthritis, which I have, as well as a variety of other subjects, health-related and more. They cover topics that affect everybody, but especially the elderly.”

Plainview resident Anita Chassen is a newcomer to the POB CARES meetings; today marked her second. However, after attending their previous meeting, a comprehensive lecture on nutrition for seniors, she said she was sure to be a regular going forward.

“These meetings are informative...very informative. You get a lot of information here,” she said. “The people at POB CARES do this community a great, valuable service and the seniors of Plainview really appreciate it.”

Kirschman said programs such as POB CARES are vital to any community, and wished that funding was available to ensure that similar programs were available to a greater number of people across Long Island.

“I think that it’s a fantastic program, and I wish there were more NNORCs in other areas,” he said. “It feels very nice to be able to help these people out...a lot of them are very needy, and we do what we can to fill those needs and help them to life more independent lives.”

If you’re interested in learning more about POB CARES or possibly volunteering for the organization, you can contact Abe Kirschman at the Mid-Island Y JCC at 516-822-3535, ext. 382.