Get a hand, give a hand: Senior services offered

BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO | Tom Charls changes batteries in Gert Bourne’s smoke detector so she won’t have to climb the ladder.

BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO | Tom Charls changes batteries in Gert Bourne’s smoke detector so she won’t have to climb the ladder.

“We’re sort of the volunteer eyes and ears of the senior community.”

That’s how Ron Lucas describes the Shelter Island’s Senior Citizens Activity Council he chairs.

Working with a team of 13 other volunteers, he’s spreading the word to more seniors about services available to them so they can continue to live independent lives.

What’s more, if there’s a service the Island doesn’t offer that seniors need, council members carry that request back to the Town Board to fill the void, Mr. Lucas said.

If there’s one problem that plagues the council, it’s the reluctance of many seniors to take advantage of the offerings.

“People don’t want to be considered seniors,” Mr. Lucas said.

Everyone needs to be able to reach out to others for companionship and, sometimes, for assistance with some projects around the house. Just this week, a volunteer helped senior Gert Bourne change batteries in her smoke detector. That’s a service done in conjunction with the Shelter Island Fire Department and those who need a smoke or carbon monoxide detector can get one per year.

Volunteers tackle light projects — changing light bulbs or securing a screen door where hinges may have come loose during windy weather. It’s the small jobs that a contractor won’t tackle, but are vital to maintaining a house, Mr. Lucas said.
Homeowners are responsible for the cost of materials, but there’s no charge for labor.

The Shelter Island Senior Foundation, the money-raising arm for senior services, is always happy to receive contributions that help to support its various programs.

“We fill a real gap,” Mr. Lucas said about the home repair program.

Other services include “the Silver Circle,” providing activities such as yoga, meditation, mahjong and poker along with an opportunity for social interaction and a nutritious lunch. It has only about a dozen participants, when it could easily accommodate double that number, Mr. Lucas said.

Joining the Silver Circle or going to lunch at the Dinner Bell at Shelter Island Presbyterian Church doesn’t carry a connotation of feeble, Mr. Lucas stressed. These are simply people of a certain age who enjoy spending some time with their contemporaries.

A  survey has shown  that 40 percent of the Island’s year-round population are seniors, 55 or older, and that number has probably grown.

By and large, Island seniors want to remain in their own homes and be as independent as possible. Many tend to be in their 60s, although about half are more than 75 years old, Mr. Lucas said.

If assistance is needed dealing with Medicare or Social Security or the state’s EPIC prescription drug program. Henrietta Roberts and Veronica Siller at Senior Services can help with the proper contacts to ease the way.

There’s also help to secure a ride to the doctor or to the IGA or to get to the Town Senior Center or Presbyterian Church for activities. There’s a Mini Cooper purchased with contributions and grant money available to shuttle seniors who need a ride. It has a few paid drivers and several volunteer drivers.

For those who are home bound, there’s delivery of nutritious meals. There’s also a telephone program that serves to connect those who are alone with someone who cares about their welfare and will check on them daily, providing help if needed, but more often, just providing someone to talk with who really wants to know how they’re doing.

If assistance is needed to line up good caregivers or you’re a caregiver who needs some training, that can be arranged.
Senior Services can also provide temporary ramps for those who have had knee replacement surgery or other procedures limiting mobility during recuperation. The loan of the ramps generally lasts three months, although it can be extended.

Whatever your need, it’s worth reaching out to Senior Service and if you have no other need than some human companionship, that’s available too, Mr. Lucas said.

Members of the team besides Mr. Lucas include Ida Marie Bottone, Ms. Siller, Councilwoman Chris Lewis, Karin Bennett, Maggie Ciaglo, Lois Charls, Henrietta Roberts, Ginny Rowland, Gert Bourne, Emily Hallman, Giovanna Ketcham, Tom Morritt, Ginny Rowland and Jeanne Woods.

Anyone interested in joining the team of volunteers or in need of help, call the Senior Services office at 749-1059.