New task force will help older adults age at home

By Rabbi Allen Juda
Chair of the Older Adults Task Force
Cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead once wrote, “Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.”

We are fortunate to have many caring members of the Lehigh Valley Jewish community, and one group has been working diligently since last summer to “change the world” for those aging in place. There is evidence from across the country that older adults prefer to remain in their own homes as long as possible rather than enter a long-term care residence. But people may need some help doing so.

Fortunately, our communal leaders recognize the need to provide more services to our growing population of older adults. In the spring of 2022, Jeri Zimmerman, executive director of the Jewish Federation of the Lehigh Valley, invited Debbie Zoller, executive director of Jewish Family Service of the Lehigh Valley, to collaborate on the formation of an Older Adult Task Force. As I was completing five years as JFS president, I was honored that they asked me to serve as the chair. I have been interested and involved in local older adult issues for over 40 years.

Since October 2022, task force members, each of whom brings a unique perspective to the area of aging, have been researching best practices and programs for older adults who are aging in place in other JFS and Federation locations around the country. In order to be successful, we are rolling out services in one area at a time to further assess need and usage.  

The task force agreed that the new initiative would be the formation of the JFS@Home program.      

The first pilot program is Home Repairs and it has two components:

1. Home maintenance referrals

After extensive research into local home maintenance resources, professional services are available for those in need of a minor home repair. JFS will provide the names and contact information. If you prefer not to be alone in your home with the home maintenance professional, a JFS volunteer can be assigned to stay with you during the first scheduled meeting, and during follow-up appointments upon request. Limited financial assistance may be available if you meet eligibility criteria.

2. Leaf raking this fall

If you need assistance with leaf raking, JFS will organize volunteers on Sunday, November 12. The Hillel organizations at Lafayette College in Easton, Lehigh University in Bethlehem and Muhlenberg College in Allentown have generously agreed to have their students help you.

We will keep you updated as we research more programs and services. Thank you to our task force members and generous donors for their commitment to enhancing services for Jewish older adults in the Lehigh Valley. The task force plans to hold some focus group meetings this fall to hear directly from our older adults what additional services and programs they most need.

In addition to these new programs, JFS offers other specialized older adult services. Our case management program connects individuals to services and programs in the areas of transportation, food insecurity, socialization and in-home supports. Please contact Carol Wilson, older adult social worker, to inquire about ways JFS may assist you. Call her at 610-821-8722 Monday through Thursday or email her at

As the Psalmist wisely implores, “Do not cast us away as we grow old, Do not desert us as our energy wanes.” The Federation and JFS are working together to make sure that no older adult in our community feels cast off or abandoned.