Aging in place is almost always what people wish for as they get older—to live out one’s life at home, surrounded by personal treasures, a familiar neighborhood, close friends and family.
As the senior population burgeons and people continue to live so much longer, living at home all too often results in social isolation. Friends die. Families live far away. Neighbors turn away. Physical challenges and frailty prevent mobility.
It is important for those who work with seniors to know that an older adult who lives alone is not necessarily lonely or without social supports. When reaching out to provide assistance, understanding the difference among living alone, being isolated, being reclusive and being lonely is essential.
One existing service designed to ease the problem in West Hollywood is called Telecheck. Launched almost 18 years ago by Jewish Family Service (JFS), the program administered at the West Hollywood Comprehensive Service Center located at 7377 Santa Monica Blvd. helps to ensure the safety of those who are homebound, with a daily phone call Monday through Friday.
JFS volunteers make the calls, providing a friendly voice, consistent contact and reassurance. Most of the call recipients are case management clients, already under the watchful eyes of JFS social workers.
“There can be other seniors who are isolated, but unless they are brought to our attention, there is no way to know that," said Olga Bronstein, JFS Senior Case Manager, who oversees Telecheck.
Often, an emergency of some kind alerts Bronstein that help is needed. Sometimes a neighbor notices that something is amiss, she said.
"We also get referrals from West Hollywood City Hall and sometimes from either the Sheriff’s station or the Fire Department," Bronstein said. "Many older adults don’t know how to reach out, fear being a burden, or it just doesn’t occur to them.”
The exchange is usually no more than a quick, “How are you doing today,” Bronstein said. Following the client’s lead, the volunteers will sometimes chat briefly about general things.
“If a client seems not to sound well or complains about not feeling well, the volunteer will immediately report that to our office,” said Bronstein.
Gerry Feldman, 87, has been a Telecheck volunteer for about 13 years. She says she is happy to hear a voice on the other end of the telephone.
“The people I talk to are very lonely. It takes so little effort and time to make sure that they are okay,” Feldman said. “Some day I will get old and someone will call me. I get so much pleasure out of it.”
Calls are placed Monday through Friday between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. For more information about Telecheck, a service of the West Hollywood Comprehensive Service Center JFS program, contact 323-851-8202.