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Local service organization commits to aiding vulnerable population

JFCS helps senior citizens maintain vitality with contact, companionship and meals.

The encroachment of coronavirus into every facet of the daily lives of Cherry Hill residents has caused a major shift in the way they deal with the new reality. 

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Perhaps no single segment of the population is at greater risk than older adults, not just because of the immediate physical health concerns, but also due to a disruption of routines that may lead to increased social isolation, hunger, and associated mental health issues. 

The Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Southern New Jersey has been greatly impacted by the current social guidelines and restrictions necessitated by the pandemic, including closing the physical doors. Its hallmark of face-to-face interactions with the area’s older adults has been severely curtailed, but the center is finding ways to adapt to new and changing circumstances and aid clients in need. 

“We worked in a collaborative environment, but now we feel like we’re working in individual silos,” admitted Rebecca Rosenau, director of senior services at the JFCS.
“One of the biggest benefits is the change in health regulations to allow telehealth for those going through loss or depression, the loss of independence, or a new diagnosis.”

Rosenau admitted the pandemic has also allowed for streamlining of JFCS services to older adults. 

“Although we cannot meet our clients directly, we no longer have to factor things like travel time or other challenges, being that we can now work out of our homes. We can still provide all those services, just not in our offices,” she said. 

The JFCS offers three principal resources to the 60-and-over population: in-home service like meal deliveries, counseling and emotional support and community connections for those unable to take care of daily necessities. 

“As a result of services shifting to remote, we have compiled a new group of volunteers who are younger and working from home,” Rosenau explained. “They have come together, at last count 150 volunteers, who are shopping for our clients. 

“Right now, our turnaround time for meal service is 24 to 48 hours, but in some cases it’s faster than ShopRite or other grocery stores whose deliveries are backed up because so many people are using them.”

Rosenau added that there’s no cost for the delivery or the service, just for the food itself. JFCS recently completed a second round of services for 100 clients with non-perishable items, particularly those associated with Passover, set for sundown on April 8.

“We have a weekly, kosher meals-on-wheels program as well,” Rosenau continued. “Our meals come from a caterer from Philly, delivered to a Cherry Hill location, and then distributed. Meals are $7 each, and there are two dozen options to choose from: meat-based, veggie to dairy-restricted options.” 

Rosenau said JFCS would shift its crucial counseling and support groups to a virtual format as well. 

Teletherapy, a subset of the new telehealth mode, is occurring daily with numerous therapists and dozens of clients of all ages, and numerous check-in calls are made on a constant basis for other seniors in need. For Holocaust survivors, Yiddish and Russian speakers have volunteered.  

“Older adults in particular are struck with fear, feeling isolated and disorganized in their thoughts or their daily structure. Many of our clients are struggling with what day it is, regarding things like sleeping habits and eating habits,” Rosenau said. 

“Without that structure, everybody can go downward, emotionally and physically, no matter which age group.” 

In between, what’s left are reassurances that life will go on and JFCS will continue to find ways to keep an overlooked segment of society as vital as possible.

“I just want to let the community know that while our physical doors have closed, we are still available for all their emotional and logistical needs,” Rosenau concluded. 

For a general description of services to the 60-plus community, visit: https://jfcssnj.org/60plusservices/. For all other information and inquiries, contact Rosenau at (856) 424-1333 or by email at: rrosenau@jfedsnj.org.

In addition, the JFCS website’s coronavirus page is updated daily with new offerings of self-help, mental health services, resources and virtual experiences: https://jfcssnj.org/coronavirus/

Former radio broadcaster, hockey writer, Current: main beat reporter for Haddonfield, Cherry Hill and points beyond.

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