by Naomi Singer, Community Services Social Worker, Greening Fellow, DOROT
DOROT’s goal is to alleviate social isolation among the elderly and provide services to help them live independently as valued members of the community. Through concrete services as well as social, cultural, and health-promoting opportunities, we help seniors “age in place” safely and with dignity. At first glance, environmentalism may seem tangential at best to our mission. In reality, though, the goals and opportunities of greening are closely aligned with the needs of older adults. For those frail seniors who lost power during Hurricane Sandy and were reliant on volunteers to deliver basic necessities, the impact of climate change was all too real. Beyond that, healthy aging and healthy greening both are rooted in social connections and interrelatedness.
DOROT’s involvement with seniors, whether at our offices, in the community, or in their homes, offers opportunities to disseminate environmental education while promoting social connections. For our recent Package Delivery Program, over 600 volunteers visited seniors at home, bringing a bag of holiday-related treats that included a flyer highlighting the elements of the package that are recyclable and outlining NYC’s new, expanded recycling program.
For mobility-impaired seniors who have lost some of their physical independence and self-efficacy, it is powerful to know they still have a role in contributing to the greater good. This was the case for a frail, homebound man who had accumulated decades of used batteries, who was relieved when teen volunteers transported the stash to a battery recycling center.
Another fabulous way to reach homebound seniors with opportunities to learn about health and the environment is through University Without Walls, our teleconference classes. This semester, we have three interactive courses – all on the telephone – related to greening issues. One series of classes, “Protecting Our Earth, Protecting Ourselves” is taught by JGF Fellow and Congregation Ansche Chesed Executive Director, Josh Hanft!
Other program ideas involve older adults and people of all ages as both learners and teachers: rooftop gardening, with the herbs to be used in our intergenerational cooking programs; a field trip to a recycling plant; and “green audits” of seniors’ homes.
Greening initiatives can reinforce DOROT’s goals of building a multigenerational culture, reducing social isolation, and keeping seniors healthy and tied to the community.