By LISA GALLY
Imagine only leaving your house for medical-related visits. Some compare it to being a prisoner in your own home. This is the case for many Jewish senior citizens right here in the Albany, Schenectady and Rensselaer areas. Many individuals are not affiliated with a synagogue or other organization. They feel isolated and lonely. Even if they are living in senior housing, they may feel different from most of their non-Jewish neighbors. They celebrate different holidays and have had different experiences. There are many seniors that find they do not have viable transportation to essential medical appointments, trips to the grocery store, and quality of life programs, dinners, mahjong or elsewhere.
Many seniors who live in the tri-county area and beyond do not have transportation to get places, but have transportation needs. They may be too frail or unable to walk far enough for to catch the bus. Transportation concerns are second only to health concerns for the 60 plus age set.
The Fifth Commandment
We live in an age when children do not live near their aging parents, or are busy caring for their families and working. There are many seniors that simply do not have children.
This is where Project 5 comes in! It’s a transportation program specifically for Jewish seniors, ages 60 and up. The name Project 5 come from the 5th
commandment, honor thy mothers and fathers. That is exactly what the volunteers do. It’s an arm through arm, door through door service provided by volunteers who drive in the comfort of their own cars.
Some passengers are in need of more help than others, while some may want more independence. The driver pulls up, gets out to open the door for the passenger and some respond as Arlene does, “get back in the car, I can do it,” while others are happy for the assistance. Some use the service when they worry that the weather will not be optimal for them to drive, like Marilyn. Some use it to do their weekly grocery shopping like Anitta. Blanche wants an outing at the mall once or twice a year. It is out to lunch with friends for Eleanore and Ilene after their weekly program at the JCC. Carl calls when he needs to go to the bank, grocery shopping, the barber, an event with the NNORC or at the JCC or to attend Friday night services.
Keep Them Safe
To qualify for the program, passengers, 60 or older, must be able to get in and out of cars on their own, and Jewish. Many Project 5 passengers use walkers and canes. Time and time again the volunteers hear passengers state, “I don’t know what I would do without Project 5, they are like my second family!”
For many people in the “sandwich generation” it’s difficult to watch our loved ones get older. We worry about our parents, aunts, uncles and neighbors. We worry about their safety. Are they safe driving their car? Are they cognizant of their abilities? Most seniors know when it’s time to give up the keys, but it’s extremely scary to become dependent on others. They are adults and deserve to be treated with respect. As children we are taught to treat our elders with respect. Project 5 does just that.
Clara who is extremely busy with getting her master’s degree and has a large family, drives once or twice a month, states “I feel like I am honoring my mother who, unfortunately, I can no longer drive around.” Ruth, who usually drives a couple of times a week and says, “Being somewhat new to the area and most of the passengers have lived here for many years they often have recommendations for restaurants and interesting places to visit. They are always grateful, when it’s me that should be thanking them.” Sandi who has driven for Project 5 for many years, sums it up with: “L’Dor V’Dor, from generation to generation.”
Volunteering with Project 5 is easy! Drivers can commit to one ride a month or as many as they want, whatever they are available to do. Debbie can only drive during school hours because she is busy with her kids after-school. Scott and Ellen head to warmer climates in the winter, while Wendell heads off to his summer home. Sometimes it’s as easy as dropping someone off at a doctor’s appointment or at the JCC. Done in 20 minutes or less.
Project 5 has flexibility when it comes to scheduling. Beginning in December, the Project 5 scheduler will be more automated. We are acquiring a new program that will allow the volunteers to sign up on a secure web-based program for the rides that they are available to provide. There will still be times when we will need to personally contact volunteers if someone needs a last-minute ride.
It’s takes a village to raise children, and it also takes a village to care for our elders. They still have so much to give! Open your heart and your car door.
Project 5 is a not for profit program funded primarily by Jewish Federation of Northeastern NY and private donations. To inquire about getting rides, or to perform a mitzvah by volunteering to drive, call me, Lisa Gally, coordinator of Project 5, at Jewish Family Services, 518-514-2143.
Family or no family there are many seniors that find they do not have viable transportation to essential medical appointments, trips to the grocery store, and quality of life programs at the JCC, dinners, mahjong or elsewhere.
More people are living longer, sometimes well into their 90s. As the baby boomers age there will be more and more people in need.