By Jeff Bahr
A lot can be learned when a politician leaves the offi ce to go walkabout. So says Nutley Public Affairs Commissioner Steven Rogers of his experience while conducting a walking tour of the community, and learning along the way of a legitimate problem that he felt contained a simple answer.
“As a military commander, I learned that the only way to get a good feel on how the troops feel is to get out from behind your desk and get out into the fi eld,” explained Rogers. True to his beliefs, that is precisely what he did.
“I started a walking tour this summer, during which time I am personally visiting the homes of nearly 1,000 Nutley veterans to thank them for their service to our country,” said the commissioner in recalling how the problem first came to his attention.
“While visiting them, I learned that many senior citizens had not seen or heard from anyone in weeks. Some of them no longer have family members alive; some of them have been forgotten by family members; others have no contact with friends; the list goes on,” he explained.
“Additionally, what really moved me was when visiting some senior citizen veterans at their homes, a few of them broke down and told me that they did not believe anyone cared about them. In fact, a comment made to me by one woman haunted me (for) a few days. She looked at me right in the eyes and said, ‘we are old and worn out and nobody cares about us.’ I lost sleep over than one.”
Identifying a problem is one thing. Taking action, quite another. Rogers moved toward the latter by implementing a call program for senior citizens.
“These experiences got me moving on this initiative,” said Rogers. “These people may be older than us, but they are not worn out and we do care. In fact, our seniors have a lot to offer our younger generation. I intend to call upon these seniors in the near future to help us at the Dept. of Public Affairs.”
The Senior Call Program, while profound in its intent, is the model of simplicity. Trained volunteers will place calls to Nutley citizens age 65 and older who have requested telephone contacts.
“Many seniors who live alone do not interact with anyone for weeks,” said Rogers. “This program is a friendly way of asking, ‘how are you doing?’ and then providing them with assistance once they answer that question.”
The initiative, kicked off just recently, has already acquired a dozen or so seniors, according to Rogers. He expects this number to “grow rapidly” after seniors are made fully aware of the service.
Participants will include those who may or may not have friends or family, and/ or those who fi nd it diffi cult to get out of their homes easily – virtually everyone and anyone who might benefit from knowing that someone in the community cares about them.
Seniors will chat with trained volunteers that include a doctor in clinical psychology, nurses, and social workers. The calls will be conducted “Monday through Saturday throughout the day,” according to Rogers.
In addition to providing a caring voice at the other end of the line, the initiative will also provide seniors with much-needed assistance on other fronts. “Some seniors need help completing forms — perhaps some minor legal assistance; some need fi nancial aid; maybe they need to contact a carpenter, plumber, and even some training on how to use a computer,” said Rogers. “The Dept. of Public Affairs will help them with these issues and many more.”
“If senior citizens want a call from our offi ce, all they need do is call us at 973-284- 4976. We will return their call and inform them as to the process we have established as part of our program. Anyone who wishes to refer us to seniors, or seniors to us, just give us a call,” concluded the commissioner.