Written by Karen Gellender Friday, 30 April 2010 00:00
While there can be advantages to moving into assisted living facilities, for many senior citizens, staying in the homes where they’ve lived for years- and sometimes decades- is the preferred course of action. However, it’s not always so easy; the rigors of everyday problems like keeping up with food shopping, health appointments, and arranging transportation, can be difficult for some. For others, the everyday chores may not present major problems, but the sense of community that has been lost- perhaps, after many family and friends have left the area- can take some of the pleasure out of staying in an otherwise well-loved home. Fortunately NORC, or Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities, provides a plethora of services intended to make staying in the home both feasible and enjoyable for area senior citizens. In that spirit, the Plainview-Old Bethpage Neighborhood NORCS, a program of the Mid-Island Y Jewish Community Center, held its first annual “NORCWALK” on Sunday, April 25.
The event was explained in the POB NNORCS quarterly newsletter as an “intergenerational walking and talking event to benefit seniors in our community,” and that description proved accurate; not only adults and senior citizens, but children and teens of all ages, were happy to participate in the walk-a-thon. While the April morning was cold and rainy, the event took place (although organizers did shorten the duration of the walk.) As Legislator Judy Jacobs (D-Woodbury) said, “The pouring rain did nothing to dampen the spirits of those gathered to show support for the wonderful work and dedication of the NORC program.” Participants marched outside of Plainview-Old Bethpage Middle School, then ate some healthy snacks and warmed up inside the school with Mr. Wonderful’s magic show.
“It was great, there was a lot of energy. It shows how the community really does care,” commented Mark Meltzer, LMSW, project director of POB NNORCS. In general, the staff was overjoyed by the level of enthusiasm displayed by members of the community from all different walks of life, especially the children. In addition to being intergenerational, the event was also interfaith, with participants from many different religious organizations.
“This event touched more community organizations than anything that the JCC has ever done before,” noted Sue Tregerman, assistant executive director of the Mid Island Y JCC.
For some, the line between volunteer and client is casually blurred. Ruth and Paul Soffrin, a couple who have been married for 68 years, and have been in their home for 57, take the opportunity to help their friends and neighbors within NORC as much, if not more, than they benefit from its services. “We like to be active, to volunteer and to be helpful,” said Paul Soffrin, who also explained that seeing his father’s commitment to community service inspired him to follow in his father’s footsteps as a volunteer. Both of the Soffrins serve on the POB NNORCS Advisory Board, and do a wide variety of tasks for the organization.
While a lot of the volunteer work consists of providing transportation and shopping, volunteers often get the opportunity to make use of their own unique skills. Mel Breshin, a retired dentist, takes advantage of his mechanical skills to do maintenance work and fix appliances. Breshin, who was recently named the 2009 NORC Volunteer of the Year, said that while he is happy to do various kinds of volunteer work, he finds it particularly rewarding to be able to make use of his particular skills in order to offer help in an area where it is often needed.
Other crucial services are provided by Kelly Soel and Janet Golon, two registered nurses from North Shore Long Island Jewish Hospital, as well as social worker Beth Spickler Lerman, LMSW. Soel and Golon are primarily responsible for NORC’s thrice-monthly health chats, which cover topics like blood pressure screening, cardiac health, and dealing with lower back pain. The programs are popular, sometimes getting a turnout of 30 people at the POB Public Library. In addition, NORC provides a dental van, which goes around the neighborhood providing free dental care for seniors.
Less critically important than health care, but very important nonetheless, are the cultural programs that NORC provides. Harriet Blatt, chairperson of the Advisory Board and Volunteer Transportation coordinator, explained that NORC runs a biweekly knitting circle and a monthly book club. The newsletter notes that the organization is looking for more volunteers to run classes.