May marks the celebration of Older Americans Month. The theme of OAM 2021 is “Communities of Strength.”
What makes a community strong? In part, it is the community members themselves. Jewish Family Services (JFS) honors the older adults in the community, who have acquired and proven strength over a lifetime of joy and grief, success and hardship. It is also a support network of caring people and resources that makes for a strong community. Jewish Family Services is dedicated to supporting the older adults in our community however they may need it. For the past 80+ years, one of the most popular programs offered to seniors in the community is the Libby & David Fogle Lunch Bunch.
Seniors meet weekly to enjoy lunch, socialization, and entertainment. While the group typically meets in the JCC, meetings have been moved to Zoom to be Covid-safe.
JFS invites guest speakers to lecture on various topics that are of interest to the attendees. One virtual guest speaker hosted nutrition classes. Another read and discussed poetry. Lunch attendees have also had the opportunity to discuss art, and to listen to live music.
“We give folks the chance to connect and talk a little bit about what they’re experiencing in this phase of social distancing and what kinds of things we’re thinking about when we come out of this pandemic,” said JFS Geriatric Social Worker Christy Morris. “I think the attendees really miss in-person interactions.”
Morris said the attendees appreciate the opportunity to socialize, especially since they miss in-person interactions so deeply.
“I am so grateful that our Lunch Bunch Program Coordinator, Ruthie Gal, had the vision to switch our lunches to a virtual platform” said JFS Executive Director Lori Moss. “When I’ve had the opportunity to join the group, I find myself smiling from ear to ear seeing participants’ faces and watching them catch up with each other in a safe way.”
Lunch Bunch participant Gabby Tamler has been involved with the program for years. When her husband was alive, the program was an opportunity for the couple to get out of the house and mingle. She still participates and appreciates having something to look forward to.
“For anybody who has lost somebody, you know you really have to push yourself to get going and to be social,” she said.
Tamler says she is interested in the speakers and the discussion questions that follow. She most recently enjoyed the guest lectures on taxes and nutrition.
“During the pandemic, it’s been nice to just have a chat with other people, and to have that human connection,” Lunch Brunch participant Paula Fogle said.
She loved a recent lunch that began with a series of exercises. She said that the programs engage participants in an intellectual and stimulating way.
Before the pandemic, Fogle said that the lunches were also a means of accountability of where people were and what they were up to. People checked in on each other.
Now, the lunch brunch plays an even more vital role in participants’ lives.
“The pandemic is very isolating,” Fogle said. “I only see people on Zoom or at the store. Without having the lunch bunch group... I’ll say it kind of throws out a lifeline.”
“The Lunch Bunch has truly become our own community of strength, especially over this last year, and we invite anyone who is interested to join us,” Morris said.