DOROT’s mission is to enhance the lives of Jewish and other elderly in the greater New York metropolitan area and to provide education, guidance, and leadership in developing volunteer-based programs for the elderly, nationally and internationally. They’ve been a great friend to What You Can Do, so what better way than to hear from DOROT’s Executive Director Mark L. Meridy.
• What in your opinion is the biggest misconception people have about the aging community?
I think many Americans foster the notion that retirement means detachment from society. The fact is, more seniors are volunteering and participating in community-building programs than ever before, particularly in areas of service to young people, the community, and frail homebound elderly.
Seniors are also taking an avid interest in technology, as evidenced in a recent study by the Pew Research Center. According to a recent article in the New York Times, the study found that some of the highest growth rates in broadband use are happening among the elderly; since 2005, broadband use among those 65 and older has tripled.
Finally, many seniors have experienced steep drops in the values of their retirement funds, resulting in their need to return or remain in the workforce. Because of the wisdom and experience they bring to their job and the social connectivity they enjoy with their colleagues, older workers have a tremendous amount to offer to the workplace.
• What is the most common need among seniors living alone?
For seniors who live alone, social isolation is a serious concern. Friendly visiting programs, teleconference educational programs, and community social opportunities such as those offered by DOROT are very important for seniors who are at risk of becoming socially isolated or disconnected from the world around them. For those with failing health, access to home healthcare, meal delivery, and transportation are important keys to successfully aging in place.
• Why should more people get involved with programs serving seniors?
I have always found it fascinating and extremely rewarding to learn about the experiences of older people. Many volunteers who engage the elderly form meaningful friendships, provide companionship, and create a link between the generations that, I think, is critical to the fabric of society.
• Explain a bit about the replication kit for your friendly visiting program.
DOROT created the Friendly Visiting replication kit in 2007 through a grant from The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation as a means of helping community and faith-based organizations develop their own friendly visiting programs. The kit provides detailed instructions on organizing such an effort and includes training manuals for those who wishes to become friendly visitors. DOROT makes the kit available at a nominal cost and provides technical assistance through its Merrin Institute. Interested parties can contact DOROT at (212) 769-2850 or www.dorotusa.org.