Bridging the Generation Gap for Jewish Seniors

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Isolation is a key problem for frail, older adults and can reduce their lives into enduring in lonely apartments. Mobility issues or economic problems force millions indoors.

DOROT, a Hebrew word for "generations" is a microcosm of volunteers determined to close the gap. The non-profit organization reaches upwards of 7,000 seniors in Manhattan’s Upper West Side and bordering Westchester County.

It's  teleconference service, University Without Walls, enrolls seniors into an exploration of visual arts, music, literature, health, support groups, Judaic studies, and games.

Memories are shared, new skills are practiced, and health is enhanced from the comfort of one’s home. Because the service is available country-wide, University Without Walls, is global. Classes are limited to 15 people for heightened learning purposes.

Volunteer Force Relieves Isolation

Judith Turner – Director of Volunteer Services of DOROT – said that the organization’s mission is to relieve isolation of seniors. Because its services are highly individualized, DOROT maintains a 6,000-strong volunteer force.

Although most of the seniors, volunteers and staff are Jewish, DOROT is open to all denominations. Every senior receives a home session by a staff social worker who develops a personal portfolio. In-home needs and interests are defined for proper response from volunteers.

According to Turner, “the heart and soul of DOROT is our friendly visiting program.” Many volunteers pay weekly visits to older adults for up to a year and most volunteer-senior relationships last for 2.5 years on average. “We’re really about bringing relationships into the home.”


Computer Learning Reduces Isolation

A DOROT specialty is familiarizing isolated adults with computers. Volunteers commit to up to four continuous visits to help with the basic needs of the elderly, including accessing the Internet, setting up Skype, and playing computer chess.

Older adults are assisted with writing memoirs and organizing computer files. “Photography and organizing photo albums are very important to older adults,” said Turner, “and communicating through e-mail.”

Volunteers help seniors get started with audio books, iPod shuffles and iPads. “We even had a 107-year-old man buy his first iPad and get assistance,” Turner giggled.

DOROT was founded in 1976 by Columbia University Graduate students and alumni who sought to help out home bound seniors isolated in their apartments in the Upper West Side of Manhattan.