Although Penn South Co-operative housing was built for working families, eventually many of the children had grown and moved out leaving their elderly parents, aunts and uncles behind. In the early 1980s, the management realized there were more and more older people approaching them with problems such as inability to read or understand paperwork received from the co-op, losing keys several times and going to the security office for help, or simply wandering and being unable to find their apartment. Some people forgot to pay their monthly charges.
In 1985 a management-sponsored survey was completed which showed that 70% of the Penn South households had a resident 60 or over. The overwhelming majority of seniors wanted to stay put. They had no desire to leave their homes for assisted living or a nursing home. Many of them joined in the effort to address these and other problems and helped put in place what has become a very successful service model: the NORC Supportive Services Program, (NORC-SSP). The objective of the program is to assist seniors to remain in their own homes for as long as they wish, providing social services, health services, cultural, recreational and other services as the need arises.
Presently, the staff consists of five social workers, one of whom is assigned to the De-Cluttering Program. These social workers offer a variety of services to enable seniors to remain at home. (See social work section.) There is one group worker who puts together the large list of programs presented each month. These include classes, groups, movies, lectures, workshops, parties and other activities. (See program section.) In addition, there is a program director, administrative assistant and porter to round out the staff.
NORC Partnerships flourish due to the cooperation of all entities involved. The Penn South NORC–SSP partners include Mutual Redevelopment Houses, the management company for the Penn South Co-op. Its basic contributions include not only cash, but a great deal of space for which they do not charge the program. An even larger contribution is the peace of mind cooperators have due to management’s overseeing the buildings and grounds, which enables management to assist seniors who get sick or injured on the co-op grounds. Management also assists when seniors need help with access to their apartments after losing keys, and, in addition, help with disposition of bulk items such as furniture or appliances; at times management is simply a helpful presence contributing to the safety of the buildings and grounds.
Jewish Association for Services for the Aged (JASA) is sub-contracted by Penn South Social Services to administer Penn South Program for Seniors. JASA is a large social service agency, serving seniors throughout the greater New York area. Many of their programs are available to PSPS members. They include The Pets’ Project; JASA Leap, an attorney and social worker serving victims of elder abuse. JASA Adult Protective Services can also assist adults 18 and over who have significant problems and have no one in the community to assist them.
The Visiting Nurse Service of New York (VNSNY), a not-for-profit licensed home health care agency, provides, free of charge, a registered nurse 20 hour per week to assist Penn South’s seniors. They target individuals who have been identified as having immediate and ongoing medical needs. In addition, the NORC nurse is available to provide crisis intervention for health care emergencies as well as a great deal of individual and group health education.
Jewish Home and Hospital Lifecare Services is another large community agency providing services to all New York seniors. They provide a registered nurse on call four hours per week at Penn South Program for Seniors. The New York City Department for the Aging and the New York State Office for the Aging have provided annual grants to PSPS for a number of years.
The City Department for the Aging also provides excellent training opportunities for the staff of agencies that receive these grants, and through the HICAP Program they also provide a weekly volunteer who is trained in helping seniors with Medicare issues.
Other agencies and organizations work with PSPS on joint projects. Come over and visit us and decide what you would like to participate in. There is something for everyone 55 and over.
Nancy Spannbauer, LMSW, Program Director, Penn South Program for Seniors 212-243-3670 firstname.lastname@example.org