Debrah Charatan Selfhelp

Sean Sime Photography / Taken at Selfhelp event

According to a 2014 census report, 40.3 million Americans were age 65 or over, making up 13 percent of the country’s population. That’s 12 times the number at the turn of the 20th century, and it shows little sign of slowing down as the Baby Boomers grow older. In fact, the same report estimates that by 2050 America’s senior population will comprise nearly 21 percent of the United States. More so, the report found that in 2010 seniors were paying three times more on personal health care in a year than a non-senior. On average, they spent just under $18,500 on their own health care that year.

That’s why I am proud to donate my time to Selfhelp.

Selfhelp is an organization based in New York City that began in 1936 to aid the victims of the Nazi regime. The organization began as a way to build homes, provide clothing and offer support to survivors resettling in the United States. Today, now celebrating its 80th year of service, Selfhelp continues to offer support to nearly 5,200 Holocaust survivors each year.

Additionally, Selfhelp evolved over the decades to meet the needs of individuals and families that weren’t affected by the Holocaust as well. Today, Selfhelp is proud to support 20,000 people in need. Though mostly elderly and in New York, Selfhelp also offers aid to low income families in areas like Baltimore and San Diego as well. Regardless the background, age or need, Selfhelp’s ethos remain the same: to provide each person with everything they need to live on their own with the dignity and pride everyone deserves.

To make that possible, Selfhelp is ran by caring, invested individuals like CEO Stuart Kaplan, Vice President Lois Deutsch and a team of dedicated employees and volunteers. Through their leadership, Selfhelp brings services into the home. These services run the gamut of elder care needs. From providing clothing as well as health and home care services to balancing checkbooks, Selfhelp strives to ensure that the elderly can live on their own as long as they live. This is a prime principle of the organization for several reasons, including the mental strain being in a confined space can do to a person that lived through the Holocaust.

“We’re going through a very complex time in health care with the advent of long-term managed care, new conglomerations with hospitals and community organizations,” explains Deutsch. “Things are rapidly changing.” And that’s exactly why Selfhelp continues to operate. That’s because their team understands that even the wisest person can be completely overwhelmed if they aren’t versed in elder care needs.

“What the state and nation should do is provide services that allow our growing population of seniors to live independently in the community and the home,” explains Stuart Kaplan. Another point Kaplan and Deutsch made was that there are an increasing array of seniors in the world. With people living longer, the needs of a 65 year-old senior can greatly vary from someone over 100 years-old. “There needs to be an investment in elder care,” Kaplan stated. Because of this need, Selfhelp developed a range of services to reach even a bed-restricted senior.

Cutting edge technology like household sensors grow to learn the habits of a senior to ensure they are doing well. If the system doesn’t register the senior moving from their bedroom at a certain hour or other daily routines, an alert will go out to notify proper responders. In other areas of need, Selfhelp understands the importance of interaction. That’s why their Senior Source technology transports seniors into classrooms and activities with skilled teachers and other seniors. By doing so, everyone is able to socialize and interact with like-minded friends–a vital need in personal mental health.

One event I am particularly fond of is Selfhelp’s weekly Coffee House events where the seniors can congregate, listen to music and have fun in a lively environment. By boosting spirits and providing community, the elderly are reminded they are far from forgotten and certainly loved. It’s truly heartwarming to see everyone in such high spirits each week.

With locations on four boroughs and Long Island, Selfhelp is proud to have 26 sites with offices helping Holocaust survivors, the elderly and others in need. Those looking to get involved in Selfhelp are encouraged to visit one of their locations, or they can attend an event for first-hand experience. If you would like to learn more about Selfhelp and its services, please contact Lois Deutsch or call (212) 971-7621.