Journey to Justice: Hebrew Home of Riverdale Honors Elder Justice Champions

Members | May 16, 2018 | by Marsha R. Greenfield

Throughout our history, LeadingAge and our members have been in the forefront of advocating against elder abuse, including supporting our members who created shelters for victims of elder abuse.

Throughout our history, LeadingAge and our members have been in the forefront of advocating against elder abuse. Among our activities, we serve on the steering committee of the Elder Justice Coalition; we worked with CMS on guidance to heighten awareness and facilitate abuse prevention training and reporting; we worked with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on educational materials about financial abuse; we co-sponsored the 2013 ”Elder Abuse and Its Prevention” Workshop of the Forum on Global Violence Prevention of the Institute of Medicine; we have supported and promoted our pioneering members who developed the first shelters specifically for elders in the community who have been physically, emotionally or financially abused, providing physical refuge and legal, social, and medical assistance, and creating robust partnerships with district attorneys and courts, law enforcement, financial institutions, social service agencies and businesses.

It is in support of this last category that I attended the 7th Annual Harry and Jeannette Weinberg Center for Elder Justice Awards of Distinction Breakfast on May 10. Hebrew Home of Riverdale created the very first shelter, opening the Center over a decade ago.

Joy Solomon, Director and Managing Attorney of the Center, spoke to the 250 attendees about the role of the family in elder abuse, sometimes the abuser, other times the bulwark supporting healthy aging. The beauty of the elder shelter model – both a safe place and a community-based education, training and support system – was touchingly expressed in a video honoring the Center, its staff and the lives they serve.

Lesley Stahl, veteran news reporter and “60 Minutes” correspondent, was named Hebrew Home of Riverdale’s Champion for Change. Stahl, who recently became a grandmother, reflected on the importance of family, the critical role grandparents play in the lives of their grandchildren and the deep biological connection between grandparent and child. She also noted that we get happier as we age, better able to take adversity in stride. She closed by acknowledging the critical work of the Center in helping elders, renaming it the “Weinberg Center for Kindness.”

The Center also named Judge Judith J. Gische, Associate Justice, Appellate Division, First Department, NY, Champion of Justice. Judge Gische recounted the value of the Center’s training program on recognizing and addressing elder abuse for guardian ad litems. She had appointed a GAL for a nursing home resident who was being sued for non-payment. The GAL realized that his client had entrusted her finances to her doorman as she was going into the nursing home, and the doorman had absconded with her money. The GAL protected the balance of her estate and reached a settlement that protected the resident and secured the financial rights of the home. This satisfactory outcome would not have been possible without the GAL understanding elder abuse.

Before the program I toured Hebrew Home and met with the staff of the Center as well as other staff and residents. Located on the banks of the Hudson River, with a phenomenal view from terraces filled with residents, and with art, music and sports throughout, I visited senior housing, long-term care, therapy settings, lounges, dining rooms and more.

Finally, for me this was a very inspiring morning, as I have followed the progress of the elder abuse shelter movement from its beginnings a decade ago. Dan Reingold, President and CEO of Hebrew Home, and Joy Solomon have assisted 15 other communities to replicate this model. LeadingAge is proud to be a partner with Hebrew Home in educating and supporting our members to identify and fight against elder abuse and, in the words of the Center’s mission, build a world where a vision of elder justice is possible.