As Activities Resume, Life for Los Angeles Jewish Home Seniors Gets Back on Track
Throughout the pandemic, seniors at the Los Angeles Jewish Home kept busy with a broad range of engaging activities geared toward sparking engagement and joy during a challenging time. As we begin to turn the corner on the coronavirus, that list of activities is growing, the list of restrictions cautiously reducing, and residents are safely and slowly—but surely—preparing to enter a post-COVID-19 world.
Many of the new offerings still take place remotely, enabling residents to interact while maintaining social distance to safeguard against risk of transmission of the virus. An example of this is a series of writing classes conducted over the phone and led by Annette Weinberg, the Jewish Home's lifestyle and enrichment director for residential care at Eisenberg Village.
"We started with journal writing, which evolved into an eight-week course with an actual syllabus," Annette says. "The residents got so into it, and everyone did something to make it their own. We had someone keep a dream journal, someone else came up with the idea of a prayer/stream of consciousness journal, and yet another resident tracked her daily diet and exercise. One member of the class kept a legacy journal—something she planned to give to her grandchildren. No matter the topic, they were all creative and wonderful."
Annette followed this initial effort up with a six-week creative writing course, then rolled out a class focused on more general writing skills. "This latest class doesn't have any homework. We do writing exercises together, whether it's working on poetry, Mad Libs, or humor," she explains. "The first week, I gave everybody the start of a sentence and asked them to finish it off with something unexpected. We had a blast!"
In-person activities are also returning to the Jewish Home. "Sandy, our creative lifestyle and enrichment assistant, offers word games in person, as a small group activity (instead of on the phone, as it was offered these last months). And we now have a Spanish class and guitar lessons twice a week. Gloria, one of our talented lifestyle and enrichment employees, teaches both. So far, it's only a few people who are venturing out, but I think it's just the start of a return to normal, and we plan to increase our courses and activities over time," Annette says. "Stimulating our residents in this way helps keeps our brains firing on all cylinders."
Residents are delighted with the new offerings. Linda Schomberg is one of those enrolled in the Spanish class. "It's a lot of fun, and what's great is that people are at different levels, so we can learn from each other," she says. Jerry Cohen has loved having a chance to jam on the guitar, and he attributes much of his success to the high level of instruction. "Gloria is an excellent—and patient—teacher," he explains.
These classes take place in the Jewish Home's newly reopened arts and crafts room. According to Annette, having the opportunity to utilize the space once again has been a gamechanger. "It's been called ‘our happy place'—a spot where so many of our residents like to go and do their own, self-directed activities. For instance, we have a married couple who come in every day. He's a jewelry maker who creates beaded necklaces, and she knits. It's such a vibrant environment, and so thrilling after all these months of closure," she says. "Thank goodness!"
In addition to expanding activities and opening venues, the Jewish Home also continues to bring entertainment directly to residents in the comfort of their own rooms. One example: for her Bat Mitzvah project at Stephen Wise Temple, local student Barbara Cotliar plans to sing for the seniors of the Jewish Home, and Annette will broadcast her performance over the Home's closed-circuit TV station. Barbara says her goal is to "lighten people's moods. This has been a hard year, and I know one of the hardest things my grandparents had to go through over quarantine was not seeing their grandchildren. My hope is the residents of the Jewish Home will feel happy after watching my performance—singing always cheers people up!"
"Our residents love beautiful music like Barbara's, and we're so pleased to be able to share it with them," Annette says. "Whether it's through video content, activities on the phone, or in-person learning, we do our best to make sure residents can maximize their enjoyment every day."