Helping Older Persons Contribute to Society
09/29/2009

October 1 International Day of Older Persons. Israeli organization has seniors helping seniors in multiple ways

Online PR News – 29-September-2009 – – She spends much of her free time volunteering as a swimming coach and lifeguard. She visited a nursing home to feed ailing seniors and also worked as a telephone counselor to talk to senior citizens who live alone. This would be very admirable for any typical college student, but Chao Yueh-Nu is not a typical college student but a septuagenarian who was honored by the Taipei county government.
While Chao may be an exceptional volunteer, she is not unique. A recent study by HSBC bank dispels the myth that older people are a burden to society. The study found that older people make enormous contributions to society as volunteers, workers, and family members.

In recognition of these contributions, the United Nations has designated October 1 as International Day of Older Persons. The UN Principles for Older Persons states that “Older persons should be able to seek and develop opportunities for service to the community and to serve as volunteers in positions appropriate to their interests and abilities.

Yad Sarah, an organization of volunteers in Israel, has been carrying out these principles with great success for the past 33 years. Recognized by the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) for its humanitarian services, the Yad Sarah is known for providing medical rehabilitation equipment and services for the elderly and disabled. For those who are challenged by the activities of daily living, Yad Sarah strives to improve the quality and dignity of their lives by providing home care support services. While elderly people are often recipients of Yad Sarah's services, older persons are also the providers of these services. Of the 6,000 volunteers who operate Yad Sarah's more than 100 local branches in Israel, a large number are retired or semi-retired persons. The experience and expertise provided by older volunteers is evident throughout the wide array of services provided by Yad Sarah.
Among the categories of service that Yad Sarah provides to people who are elderly, disabled, infirm or isolated are

• Free loans of mobility, medical, and home care equipment
• Transportation services in specially adapted vans
• Exhibition and Guidance Centers for assistive devices
• An alarm system that is staffed 24/7 for older or infirm people living alone.

Older volunteers play an important role in all of these services. They repair wheelchairs, drive vans, provide guidance on the use of assistive devices, and respond to telephone calls.

Shani Rosenfeld, an occupational therapist from NY, who helped establish the Exhibition and Guidance Center 22 years ago, proudly notes the uniqueness of the center. She observes that showrooms exist that are operated by commercial distributors of equipment and by advocacy groups for specific conditions such as muscular dystrophy and cerebral palsy, but only Yad Sarah provides information on a wide array of devices that provide “functional solutions for easier living.” Every day, the Exhibition Center receives calls regarding conditions ranging from minor back pains and maternity issues to severe disabilities requiring confinement to beds or wheelchairs. The skilled staff and volunteers who operate the five exhibition centers around Israel may recommend anything ranging from a simple item available in local stores for only a few dollars to specialized equipment costing thousands of dollars. The volunteers working with the professionals in the exhibition centers are often older persons who have had personal experience with assistive devices. They may have used some of these devices themselves or assisted an ailing family member. Now they are eager to apply their personal experiences to help others with similar needs. The volunteers achieve self-fulfillment while assisting other seniors in leading more independent and productive lives.

Yad Sarah's lending and exhibition services have been so successful that they have been widely emulated throughout the world. With the help of Yad Sarah staff and volunteers, lending and exhibition centers modeled after Yad Sarah are operating in the former Soviet Union, Angola, South Africa, South Korea, Palestinian Authority, and India. Recently, Yad Sarah signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Opera Immacolata Concezione (OIC) in Padua, Italy, to develop programs for 2,000 people with medical needs who are living at home. Yad Sarah will assist independent living by providing guidance on devices that can enhance mobility, personal hygiene, and nutritional independence.

For any information about Yad Sarah's international activities, the contact person is Meir Handelsman meirh@yadsarah.org.il +972-2-6444660. Yad Sarah's newly established International Business Development Unit at 972-2-644-4446, inons@yadsarah.org.il is at the disposal for any organization, NGO, or municipality that wishes to establish joint ventures with Yad Sarah.