Those of us who have cared for our elders know how advanced age and health issues can lead to social isolation. On the younger end of the spectrum, those with learning disabilities can feel ostracized from their peers. An innovative program in New York brings these two groups together and has created a beautiful sense of purpose for all involved.
Daniel Reingold, the CEO of the Hebrew Home at Riverdale, founded HOPE in 1995, originally as a way to fill job vacancies at the nursing home by employing those born to drug-addicted mothers, The Associated Press reported. HOPE stands for “Health Care Offers Permanent Employment.” Over the years, the program has evolved to include those with autism and intellectual disabilities.
The thread that binds these two seemingly disparate groups is caregiving. The youths assist nursing home residents with daily tasks, and the nursing home residents help the young carers with academic tasks like reading, by giving them real-world history lessons by sharing their life stories, and by being patient as the youths learn to perform caregiving tasks.
It’s a win-win situation. The kids can graduate and work at the nursing home if they choose, or explore other job opportunities. Nursing home residents are energized by the presence of young people, who are eager to show them what they can do on their smartphones and other gadgets.
The kids also learn important lessons on life and death that their peers might miss. Favorite residents die, and the students have to learn how to cope with the loss.
I love to see innovative solutions to social issues that often get ignored, and hope such success stories will inspire others to implement similar programs.