Since 2000, residents of the western Negev have been exposed to intensive and continuous rocket fire. This difficult reality effects normal life and threatens the personal well-being of all residents of the region, particularly the elderly. Aside from the continual stress and pressure, current circumstances have broad implications for the daily routines of the elderly in Sha’ar HaNegev, mainly fewer opportunities for engaging in regular activities, and difficulty in maintaining normal social and family ties. This reality. and the security situation, will only intensify feelings of isolation felt by the region’s elderly population.
“Seniors Together” is a new program funded by the Jewish Federation of San Diego. With your support, we are responding to the needs of isolated elderly seniors in the Sha’ar HaNegev communities. Our goal is to increase social activities and provide solutions for inactive elderly seniors by identifying who they are and what they need.
Yael Yefet is a resident of Moshav Yachini. Yael was born 75 years ago in Algeria, and immigrated to Israel in 1948.
It took a couple of weeks to see that Yael was the leader of the Yachini social group. The women in the group claim that they did not really know Yael (despite all the years that they lived together in the same community), and yet she was chosen by the group as its leader. I asked Yael to share a little bit about herself and the impact the group is having on her. This is what she shared:
“I have twelve children. Their childhood was very difficult for me. My husband did not work, and I went out to work to financially sustain the family. I worked in a vegetable market and after that, I worked with the elderly for 13 years. Today I work as a household worker in the moshav and take care of my granddaughter in the morning.
I have been a widow for four years. My 40-year-old son lives with me, and another son lives nearby with his wife and their six children. When I have spare time, I take care of the garden and the chickens that I raise in the yard.
I came to the social group for two main reasons - the appeal of Roni Seri, a social worker at Yachdav, whom I know and put my trust in, and also because I felt very lonely. After my husband's death, my mental state was not good and I had great difficulty being alone. At the same time, it was hard for me to leave my home.
Getting started with Seniors Together felt wonderful. Before that, I had no friends in the community, only good neighbors who, unfortunately, died. Today, with the establishment of the group, I have made new friends, whom I have known for 57 years, but we never really socialized together.
I love the idea of the group, the good people I discovered, the goodwill of Yachdav and the facilitators who come to us for exercise, enrichment workshops, and empowerment. Since joining the group my life has changed. I feel the joy of life, I feel rejuvenated, and I feel loved by its members. When I'm in the group I leave all my troubles aside and come with an open and fresh mind. The group gives me the strength to overcome everything.
I feel that I am making a valuable contribution to the group, and the group, in turn, gives me the feeling that I have an important place in my community. The membership in the group makes me a better person. I have found out that I am loved, and, at the same time, I have the ability to contribute and do a lot for others.”
By Roni Seri, Loneliness Program Director