Jewish Community Supports Seniors with Engaging Programs During Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many challenges to our senior and caregiver community, from finding ways to connect remotely, to navigating unexpected care transitions, to illness and grief. We are especially saddened by the closing of the Charles Morris Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, which provided quality care to its Squirrel Hill residents for years. As they have long before COVID-19, our community's programs are still supporting seniors physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially wherever they live.

The Jewish Association on Aging has made significant contributions to this effort. JAA President and CEO Deborah Winn Horvitz says, "The Jewish Association on Aging provides a wide array of home and community services that have always encouraged independence among our region's seniors. By having the knowledge, staff, and operations in place when the virus came to Western PA, we could increase volume and provide new options where and when they were most needed," Winn-Horvitz said. Through tele-care from the PT@JCC, referrals to AgeWell Pittsburgh, expanded support for low-income residents, and nearly 20,000 kosher meal deliveries through Mollie's Meals, the JAA has ramped up activity for seniors during COVID-19. Winn-Horvitz added, "The challenges of the pandemic provided opportunities to focus our priorities and up our commitment to keep everyone we serve safe, healthy, and engaged."

"The pandemic turned life upside down, but we've also seen the community step up in big ways," says Laura Poskin, Executive Director of Age-Friendly Greater Pittsburgh. "Early on, the stellar folks leading our local services and programs recognized that they'd have to modify to keep people healthy, safe and connected. In-person visits became telephone calls. Sit-down meals turned into pick-up or delivery. Classes and conversations went virtual with phone-in options. It's taken a whole lot of continued creativity and collaboration, but Pittsburghers are resilient—our leadership and also our older neighbors participating in these programs."

JHF is proud to be part of the effort to support seniors during this difficult time through our Senior Connections initiative. Seniors can be physically active through the JHF-supported Fit with a Physician program led by Dr. Terry Starz and Venture Outdoors. The Virtual Senior Academy, originally a JHF project that is now managed by the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh, engages seniors intellectually through online classes. JHF also offered virtual volunteer opportunities with the GRAN Intergenerational Reading Program, and training for those caring for persons with dementia.

In these dark times, continued collaboration and creative planning are crucial if we are to provide seniors with the best opportunities to reengage and thrive as we look forward to widespread distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine. After the pandemic, we will ensure that these programs continue to fulfill seniors' wants and needs, as we maintain our commitment to quality senior programming.

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