LIVING WELL TOGETHER
by Mimi Grinker
(Grinker has developed and implemented outcome-oriented nonprofit programs, and marketing and communications strategies for local and national organizations.)
When Sandra G. was diagnosed with a pinched nerve, she needed a referral for a physical therapist on the Upper West Side who would accept her Medicare. When Arlene M. was being released from the hospital after surgery for a broken leg, she needed someone to escort her home. What did these two people have in common? Both had temporary medical challenges, and both utilized a ready resource enabling them to get the support they needed when they needed it.
Living Well Together (LWT) is the community- based version of The Transition Network’s Caring Collaborative, which has been flourishing for nearly a decade as a tested and cost-efficient model that creates a community of mutual support when medically-related issues arise. The bedrock of the program is a core of participating volunteers who agree to give and receive help.
The components of the program are: a Service Corps that provides concrete services such as dog walking, preparing a meal or escorting someone to doctor’s office; an Information Exchange where people can share experiences and referrals; and a sponsor of Neighborhood Forums where like-minded members get together in a confidential and secure environment to talk about health and other issues. It is here that they build bonds of friendship and trust with the very people they can call on.
Filling a Gap in the Healthcare System
The model was conceived and implemented as an antidote to the loneliness and isolation that are increasingly a part of getting older. Geographical mobility and the rise in one-person households can lead to social isolation which has a negative impact on both psychological and physical health.
The healthcare system is struggling to accommodate the burgeoning needs of older adults,” says Dr. Michael Urdang, FACEP, an Attending Emergency Department physician. “Building a community of peers ready and willing to provide mutual support in times of medical distress is an immense help to strained healthcare resources. Having this support allows individuals to remain positive, productive and independent in their own homes. Importantly, it reduces stress, builds confidence, provides the pleasure of community, and improves the well-being of all.”
Engage Living Well Together
LWT is currently working intensively with UJA-Federation of New York’s Engage Jewish Service Corps, an organization that encourages volunteers to use their life-long skills, expertise, passion, and leadership to help others. “Adding Living Well Together to Engage expands our array of services,” notes Engage Director, Rabbi Brian Fink. “While our main focus is community service, we encourage our members to spend time taking care of ourselves as we participate with the wider world, making sure that our needs are met as we work to help others in our community.”
Living Well Together’s team and its initiator, Mimi Grinker, offer technical assistance to community groups and religious institutions who wish to integrate the model into their organizations.
For more information or to start a Living Well Together initiative, please contact her at: email@example.com.