Connecting seniors with services


Sometimes the need happens suddenly without warning: like the adult children who get the phone call that one of their parents has had a debilitating stroke. Many times, it just sneaks up gradually over time: like the daughter who is told her mother can no longer live alone or the senior who is told they can no longer drive a car. There are the many seniors in the St. Louis Jewish community who live alone without family around them to make sure their needs are being met. Then there are the overwhelmed spouses and children acting as primary caregivers for loved ones.

Beginning this week, one centralized place will work to provide advice and referrals to help Jewish seniors in the St. Louis area. ElderLink St. Louis, which began operating on Monday, June 22, hopes to connect Jewish seniors and their families to the resources and programs to meet their needs and answer their questions. It is being administered by Jewish Family & Children’s Service and sponsored by the Lubin-Green Foundation and BJC HealthCare.

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The program is the first major initiative of the Commission on Senior Service Integration Commission of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis. The commission was formed several years ago to look at needs of Jewish seniors in St. Louis. A coordinated approach for information and referrals was one of the gaps in service identified by the commission.

The process to develop the program was very rewarding, said Paul Flotken, Chair of Commission of Senior Service Integration.

“All of our Jewish community agencies, and agencies serving the Jewish communi ty, came together to help do a better job delivering services to our seniors,” Flotken said.

There has already been a terrific response to the service as it is filling an unmet need in the community, said Lori Goldberg, Jewish Family & Children’s Service Coordinator of Senior Service Integration.

“Some people have already called and shared their stories; some call with a specific need or complex situation,” Goldberg said. “We’re here to help.”

People can call one number and receive a completely confidential and free professional assessment from one of the program’s senior information referral specialists. Shelby Dersch and Lori Zimmerman are both social workers with expertise in working with older adults and their families.

“Our staff is caring, compassionate and committed to working with older adults and their caregivers,” Goldberg said.

The program can provide just a simple answer but it also offers much more than just handing out a name and phone number said Lori Kabrun-Berry, St. Louis Jewish Federation Director of Commission on Senior Service Integration. The professional staff listens to the issues, concerns and problems of each individual before linking them to resources in the community.

“The professional staff provides a real understanding and is able to guide the older adult or family member to the resource to help with their living situation, medical issues, financial concerns and support systems,” Kabrun-Berry said.

The program is customized to meet the needs of each client. Goldberg is most proud of the unique services offered by the program helping link Jewish seniors to services, the professionalism of the staff and the follow-up.

“In addition to the initial consultation, unless someone declines, we follow up to make sure the referral works out,” Goldberg said. “We want to make sure they are linked and successful. Our staff will go above and beyond to help locate needed resources.”

There is also a web available. It has a frequently asked questions section to make it easier to find assistance by dividing the categories of needs including: aging in place, caregiver resources, housing and financial resources. There is contact form available for people to ask questions or for specific assistance to which they will receive “prompt response” said Goldberg. The online directory provides just a starting point; the personal consultation with the professional staff has much more extensive listings.

The St. Louis Jewish community already has an older community now and according to the demographics, the need for services will grow, said Flotken.

“We are confident this program will deliver excellent service,” Flotken said. “The more people who contact us, the more they will feel part of the community and they will know that the Jewish community cares about its seniors.”

For more information about ElderLink St. Louis call: 314-812-9300, Monday – Friday, 8:30 am – 5 p.m. and Tuesday and Thursday evenings by appointment. Visit ElderLink St. Louis online at: