Program helps seniors maintain independence

Program helps seniors maintain independence

Seniors take part in a strength-training session, part of an exercise program for Secure@Home members held at The Jewish Center in Princeton.
Seniors take part in a strength-training session, part of an exercise program for Secure@Home members held at The Jewish Center in Princeton.

When Ruth Schulman of Princeton, who lives alone, fell and broke both wrists 18 months ago, she hated the idea of a long hospital stay. As a member of Secure@Home, an initiative of Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Greater Mercer County, she was able to recover in the comfort of her own home.

“From the time I left the hospital, the social workers coordinated not only my rehabilitation, but found me live-in help and drove me where I needed to go,” said Schulman, who is in her 70s.

She spoke to NJJN at a Sept. 30 Secure@Home forum, “Bridging the Gap Between You and Your Healthcare Provider,” at Princeton Township Hall.

Schulman told NJJN that that day’s program is an example of the many Secure@Home services she has taken advantage of. After her injury, she said, “they worked together with my son giving him lots of feedback, thus relieving him of much of the burden of taking care of me. They did all the leg work and, as a result, we were able to make informed decisions about my treatment.”

Launched in May 2007, the “aging-in-place” nonsectarian program is designed to help older adults remain in their own homes for as long as possible. “We are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week to help our members with everything from health emergencies to hiring a plumber to providing transportation to the supermarket or to the doctor,” said Secure@Home director Jill Gartenberg Jaclin.

An outgrowth of “Community Without Walls,” a Princeton-based senior group, Secure@Home is a membership organization that currently serves 170 persons in greater Mercer County. Membership is $300 a year for a single person, $350 a year for a couple.

Upon joining, members receive a comprehensive health and wellness assessment by a geriatric care manager. Members sign HIPPA privacy release forms enabling the manager to have access to physicians and pharmacists in case of emergency. In addition, their residence undergoes a home safety evaluation.

Outreach is a central component of the program. Once a month, staffers call members just to say hello. “We check in on everyone,” said Jaclin. “Not only to make sure they are okay, but to let them know what is going on in the greater community.”

To keep the members active and stimulated, Secure@Home offers lectures about politics, the arts, cooking, and health issues. An upcoming roundtable will focus on “Sex after 60.”

Independence is extremely important to seniors, but it’s often difficult when it comes to household tasks, said Jaclin. To meet these needs, a volunteer ‘Chore Corps’ performs tasks like changing smoke alarm batteries, hanging pictures, and light gardening.

Roz and Norman Denard of Princeton, one of the first couples to sign up for Secure@Home, called on a Chore Corps volunteer to help put up their sukka this year.

“I keep Secure@Home on my speed dial,” said Roz Denard. “My husband hurt his back a few months ago and he couldn’t get into the car to come home from the doctor. I called, and they came over with a car that he could get into and brought him home.”

For information on Secure@Home, contact Jaclin at 609-987-8121 or

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