February is a sad month for me. Like Carl Sandburg’s “fog”, sadness creeps up on “little cat feet”, though I recognize the feeling each year I wonder why, then remember. My Beloved Erv died (it’s time to capitalize Beloved) on the 27th of February six years ago, my brother had died the year before on the 28th of February; yesterday I was informed that my friend, Erv’s sister died this week, at age 92 in Baltimore. I will manage to get through this month, but next year I will find something special to do at the end of January and maybe take the sharp sad edge off of February.
My brother and my Beloved aged with grace. They did not worry just focused on each day as it came. There is a lot of talk today about our escalating aging population, almost every social service agency, synagogue and church are seeking ways to make the process less threatening, more secure and even fun. The perks that come with age go beyond a cheaper movie ticket, there are even perks to being alone…believe it or not! Some folks who need help in finding those perks, choose the couch and “woe is me” instead. The perks encompass many concepts. From being responsible for self to eating/sleeping/napping/nibbling on our own schedule we are face-to-face with a new kind of freedom that frequently balances the pain of loss.
In my area of Southern California Jewish Family Service (JFS) has just launched a program known as “Home Not Alone”. The program will train volunteers to enable elderly folks to stay at home. That means giving supportive help in most aspects of daily living: light housework, shopping, meal preparation, laundry and paper work. At 92 I can attest to the fact that each category has problems I confront almost daily. From time to time my bed only gets changed every other week because I need help in exchanging my well-slept-in queen size sheets and blankets for clean ones. Just washing them in my smart washing machine takes my breath away. This JFS program to reach out to the elderly is a double whammy. It is also an opportunity for retired healthy “aging” folks to volunteer, to make a contribution, meet new people and engage the community.
Palomar Medical Center in Escondido, has a SOCS Box program sponsored by its San Marcos Community Action Council. Volunteers are trained to Save Our Seniors. A training is held to give volunteers knowledge of the community resources that are specifically oriented to seniors. They are trained in listening and observing so they are able to make referrals. They are not counselors, but observer-visitors. They are trained to understand the signs of depression or illness, recognize suicidal thoughts; that can mean the volunteers are possibly the first ones to detect a problem. That is why knowledge of the resources is called a tool box. It extends more than a helping hand..
It is interesting to note that many “Meals-on-Wheels” volunteers take this training. They see some folks every day and are often the only people from the outside to come in, even for a quick visit. Their powers of observation can be vital to the health and survival of an aging individual.
My Mom and my mother-in-law died at the age of 67, my sister-in-law and I reached 92 (I am still here!). This is a different age and I am delighted that there are professionals out there looking out for our welfare and volunteers eager to help.