NYer Of The Week: Head Of Lifeforce In Later Years Helps Seniors Live Comfortably

The latest New Yorker of the Week helps seniors age in their own homes by coordinating a network of 75 volunteers. NY1’s Ruschell Boone filed the following report.

Tom McGovern and Jo May Wu met up with Irene Zola for an afternoon walk recently. She matched the two through her organization, Lifeforce in Later Years. The group, also known as the Morningside Heights Village, supports seniors who want to age in their own homes and need help.

“Three years ago, I found my mom in a nursing home after she had a severe stroke, and that was a real eye opener. I didn't realize what really old people had to go through, facing dire challenges of health and helplessness,” said Zola.

She now coordinates 75 volunteers from 108th Street to 118th Street. McGovern helps Wu, who is recovering from a stroke, by keeping her mobile and helping her around the house.

“Our basic goal is to keep seniors out of nursing homes, and we find that just with a little bit of help, they can stay in their homes that they have been in for 40 or 50 years and age gracefully and happily,” said McGovern.

Each volunteer goes through an application and screening process. They meet with seniors, ages 65 to 105, to help with anything they may need. Natalie Ryan has been meeting with a 98-year-old woman since shortly after she had a fall in 2010.

“I was there when she took some of her first steps with a therapist, which was really exciting for me. Especially as a mother, to compare the first steps of a baby to the first steps of someone who hasn't really walked in so long and was really making some strides in her life, and it was very exciting to be there for her,” said Ryan.

Zola spent the day with a woman she calls Dr. Murty, who lives alone, on her 90th birthday.

“It’s really encouraging for people like me to see people like Irene, and then I have hope now. If anything happens to me, Irene and her colleagues are there for me,” said Dr. Murty, whose full name is Rajeswari Murty Kambhampaty.

For bringing her community together and helping seniors live at home as they grow old, Irene Zola is the latest New Yorker of the week.

For more information, visit lifeforce-in-later-years.org or call 917-775-1199.

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