In Wartime, Caring for Elderly Israelis

October 7, 2014

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When Hamas rockets began raining down on southern Israel this summer, JDC stepped up — with its Networked Seniors ensuring critical social interaction and support continued for the most vulnerable elderly Israelis caught in the crossfire.

Networked Seniors is one of the signature initiatives of JDC-ESHEL, the Association for the Planning and Development of Services for the Aged, which has transformed the quality of life available to Israel’s seniors since its inception in 1969.

The virtual day care center for seniors features brain and memory games, guided discussions about current events and literature, and workshops focusing on communication skills, assertiveness, and coping with loneliness. Networked Seniors uses Watchitoo, an Israeli video conferencing program.

During this summer’s crisis, it increased its presence, operating in a special and enhanced format to reach hundreds of elderly Israelis throughout the country.

At the height of the war, Networked Seniors operated daily activities five times a week, conducting nearly 40 sessions over a 20-day period. Special crisis programming included a daily morning meditation and guided imagery, as well as afternoon programming including current events, film discussions, nutrition tips, and strategies for supporting an ill spouse during an emergency.

“The program provided people with a chance to have a restorative break from stress and from being glued to the news without having to leave their houses,” said Anat Shuster, the project’s coordinator. “And many were afraid to leave their homes out of concern about possible red alerts.”

The seniors who participated in the program called it a game-changer.

“I’m here alone, and the telephone hardly ever rings,” said Yossi Lotati, a participant from Ashdod, Israel’s fifth-largest city and one of the metropolitan areas that bore the brunt of the rocket fire. “But with Networked Seniors I can be with people even while I’m at home by myself.”

Many of the Networked Seniors sessions during the conflict were recorded, making it possible for participants to watch them at any time of the day and revisit their favorites.

Networked Seniors is just one tool in ESHEL’s arsenal, which increasingly uses technological advances to supplement its mission of making life easier and more enriching for Israel’s most vulnerable and isolated seniors.

During the conflict, JDC-ESHEL organized hot meals for homebound seniors, delivering more than 200 packages a day to the most vulnerable Israelis. JDC also coordinated respite trips for thousands of elderly and disabled Israelis as well as children at risk and their families, taking them out of the conflict zone for a few hours or days at a time.

JDC’s crisis response was made possible by JFNA’s “Stop the Sirens” campaign, among other donors. JDC’s global programs are made possible by the generosity of our supporters.

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