Elderly provided with comfort, hope by Israeli org. amid coronavirus

Life's Door felt it was vital to provide emotional support to these seniors, as the elderly everywhere are suffering from isolation and its devastating consequences.

 Elderly man alone disabled, using a walker to help him walk. (photo credit: ING IMAGE)
Elderly man alone disabled, using a walker to help him walk.
(photo credit: ING IMAGE)
It is widely recognized that the elderly are most at risk from the novel coronavirus, hence it makes sense to make special efforts to protect and comfort them, as many of these seniors have been completely isolated and confined to their homes for months now.
The Life's Door organization has focused primarily on providing emotional support to the elderly as well as those suffering from terminal illnesses. Recognizing the plight that accompanied the coronavirus, Life's Door has been managing the "Connect and Give Hope" volunteer project since the onset of the outbreak, matching volunteers with the thousands of lone seniors living in Israel during these trying times – to provide company as well as sympathy amid their lonely existence.
While there has been a heartwarming effort to provide food and supplies to those in need who are suddenly confined, the time has come to think of how to relieve the stress, anxiety and feeling of abandonment.
Therefore, Life's Door felt it was vital to provide emotional support to these seniors, as the elderly everywhere are suffering from isolation and its devastating consequences.
Those who are used to seeing children and grandchildren are being distanced, and those without close families are more alone and lonelier than ever.
Using platforms such as Zoom is not necessarily a viable alternative. The over-70s are not a homogeneous group: Some are comfortable using social media, others are not, and some might be able to use such media if someone would be available to teach them.
Locking residents of retirement homes in their buildings – and in some cases in their rooms – is not a reasonable solution, certainly not in the long term.
People need social, physical and mental activities in some form, and therefore Life's Door used their already existing partnership with the Senior Citizens Ministry and their relationship with the MATAV organization - Supportive Communities for the Elderly, to find a solution to their loneliness.

THE ORGANIZATION has so far connected nearly 500 volunteers to 1,000 seniors in need, where the volunteers spend their time holding meaningful conversations with them about their family, life and fears, as well as worries amid the coronavirus pandemic. Some even sing together, others talk about politics or economics, many discuss their grandchildren and a portion discuss the pain the crisis has caused them.
The volunteers all undergo professional training before they start working in their purposeful positions, including workshops teaching best practices in order to provide proper support to these lonely seniors - including recommendations for dealing with sensitive issues that could arise in normal conversation and how to react in order to suppress negative feelings that could come about through such topics. To train volunteers, Life's Door repurposed already existing workshops, which they have provided for the past 16 years to healthcare professionals who work with the elderly.
The new initiative has even opened the door for major companies to provide their employees with an option to connect to seniors in need and support their communities, which they can do during work hours - companies like Coca-Cola, Salesforce, Kornit Digital and Amnir - who will join the existing volunteer force comprised of healthcare professions, students, olim (new immigrants) and those who just want to give back and comfort those in need.
"The [coronavirus] crisis has given us the opportunity to give to a larger number of seniors, patients and volunteers the organization's accumulated knowledge and experience about how to face the difficult challenges of the period," said CEO of Life's Door Galit Gilad. "It is the greatness of an organization to adapt to difficult times and I thank our partners for that. We are going to deal with the problem of loneliness for a long time and I invite more companies to join this activity." 
Life's Door CEO Galit Gilad. (Courtesy)Life's Door CEO Galit Gilad. (Courtesy)
Not so long ago, the entire Western world followed with interest and empathy the fate of passengers locked inside cabins on coronavirus cruise ships. Now, an entire segment of the population – a particularly vulnerable sector that often is without a voice – is undergoing something similar, unable to leave the confines of their rooms, with meals being left outside the door and without human contact. This is hard enough for a two-week quarantine, but it is not acceptable for a sustained period.
Elderly people need a reason to get up in the morning, and to know that they have a tomorrow.
Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.