Supplement to The Jewish News
Life at the2lome: Concern,Companimhip, Community
Jean Epstein, director of social work, with student Gerri Sutton.
Marilyn Rowens and Sophie Shifrin create poetry together.
Home Gives Students Training and Insight
Creative Expression Brings Out the Poets
As a demonstration of its committment to progress and
education in gerontology and geriatrics, the Jewish Home for
Aged works with 11 institutions of higher education to provide
authorized training programs in 19 disciplines. It is one of
only a few homes in the country to offer such opportunities
Graduate and undergraduate students from Wayne State
University, University of Michigan, Eastern Michigan
University, Madonna College and other schools come to the
Home to gain experience in psychology, social work,
occupational therapy, nursing, medicine and a dozen other
fields. General dentistry and psychiatry residents from Sinai
Hospital of Detroit visit the Honie regularly to serve the
people who live there.
"The student program brings in a new fresh stream of people
with different viewpoints," says Charles S. Wolfe, executive
vice president. "We like to have as many different people here
as possible. The more people there are in the building, the
greater the range of 'Stimulation and encouragement for the
Students gain practice in their chosen fields, but more
importantly, they learn how to interact with old people.
"You get a stereotyped image of old people as alone and not
interested in what's happening," said one nursing student.
"But when you work with them, you see they have a lot left
to live for and to work with. Most of them are not even aware
of the energy they have."
When Marilyn Rowens comes into a room, everyone in it
becomes a poet.
A freelance writer and poet, Rowens has been leading creative
expression workshops at the Jewish Home for Aged for four
She started with a small group on the third floor of Borman
Hall. "These were rather confused and disoriented people,"
Rowens recalls, "but I used creative drama techniques to
reach into them and reflect their thoughts. It was like opening
a treasure box of memories and recollections."
Now Rowens works with two groups, the "Prentis Poets" at
Prentis Manor and the "Fountain of Youth" at Borman Hall.
Rowens writes down the poetry spoken by each participant,
and two or three times a year, the collections are turned into
scripts. The groups then perform for the other residents, using
song and "creative movement" as well as the spoken word.
One resident, Sophie Shifrin, 89, wrote so many wonderful
poems that the Home's staff collected them in a little
mimeographed booklet and hosted an autograph party for the
author, who now refers to herself as "the Grandma Moses of
"The workshop has become a way for the residents to interact
with each other. It gives each one an opportunity to be
listened to," says Rowens. "And I don't let anyone leave
without taking the hand of the person next to him and saying,
`I like you."'
Flowers by Sophie Shifrin
Sarah Klein enjoys a visit from her husband, granddaughter and
Flowers remind me
of innocent beauty
and pleasant fragrance.
They remind me of an innocent child
full of love and kindness.
Workshop Provides Jobs — And Income
The Home's Work Activities Center has been an important
program since it was started by Ira Sonnenblick in the Petoskey
days. Residents and day program participants earn an hourly
wage doing simple assembling and packaging work for local
hospitals and factories.
The work itself makes the employees feel useful and productive,
but they also appreciate the income.
"I need the money," says Sam Jaffee, 94, a Borman Hall
resident for 14 years. "I have three children, six grandchildren
and nine great-grandchildren. With Chanukah, birthdays and
so on, I'm a poor man!"
Heidi Baruch greets day program participants Morris Shaposnik
and Minnie Ruchotsky.
Day Program Provides Activity,
Every weekday morning around 8 o'clock, a van pulls up in
-front of Celia Lindner's Southfield home to lake her to Borman
Hall, the Jewish Home for Aged's residence in northwest
Detroit. At 6:30 p.m., the van takes her home again.
Mrs. Lindner is enrolled in the Day Program at the Home.
"It's nice to be here," she says. "It's better than to sit at
Her comment capsnlizes the rationale behind the program.
Socialization — interaction with other people — can be as
important to the mental health of older people as proper
nutrition is to their physical well-being.
"Most of the participants in the Day Program live alone and
many of them have limited social contacts," says Heidi
Baruch, director of the Day Program. "It's hard for them to
get out without help, so providing opportunities for them to be
with other people is one of the most important aspects of the
A similar program existed at the Home during its Petosky
days, when the older people in the community could walk to
the Home to join in its activities. At the time, day care was a
revolutionary idea in services for the elderly.
By the time Borman Hall opened, though, the Jewish
community was already moving away from Detroit; the Day
Program ended when the Petosky building closed and didn't
pick up again until 1977. The donation, by the LeVine
Foundation, of vans specially equipped to transport elderly
persons, helped get the program going again. Now, van service
is available over a wide area reaching from Detroit to West
Day Program participants can enroll for two, three, four or
five days a week. When they arrive at Borman Hall, they are
given a continental breakfast; they also have lunch, tea and
dinner at the Home. Then they're on their own. They may
join in any of the planned programs, work in the hobby shop
or socialize in the lobby.
Some, like Max Berezin, have a regular job in the Work -
Activities Center. "That's what I enjoy the most," says
Berezin, also of Southfield. "I come two days a week, and
each day I work four hours in the workshop, packaging .
Regularly scheduled activities include discussion groups,
movies, a drama group and arts and crafts classes.
Participants have also gone to Kensington Metropark, to Book
Fair at the Jewish Community Center and to movies, concerts
and synagogue functions.
The program is geared to people who are too frail to
participate in regular programming for the aged, such as that
available at community centers, says Charles S. Wolfe, the
Home's executive vice president. Still, they don't need 24-hour
a day nursing care.
The participants usually start out as strangers, but as they get
to know each other, they form a cohesive group, says Heidi
Baruch. "They're concerned about each other," she says. "If
someone is out sick, the others will ask how she's doing."
Celia Lindner, for one, has made a lot of friends through the
program. "We're all friends here. We all like each other," she
says. "I have my own home, but I come here every day to be
with people. It's better than sitting by yourself. You shouldn't