When Ruth and Jim Randall didn’t answer their monthly check-in phone call from Secure@Home, staff members grew concerned and sent someone to check on the senior couple in their Princeton home. They were happy to discover not a medical emergency, but a broken phone — which they promptly arranged to have fixed.
“That’s not exactly what you put in your brochure, but it was very reassuring that somebody would notice and do something about it,” said Ruth Randall in an interview with NJJN.
The Randalls have been clients since the inception of Secure@Home, which was launched five years ago by Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Greater Mercer County.
In that time, Secure@Home has been working to fulfill its mission to provide services to older adults so that they can “age in place” and maintain independence in their own homes.
The JF&CS launched the program in May 2007 to provide older adults with health care and other services after Community Without Walls — a general community association of over 400 members whose aim is to educate and connect adults who want to age in place — reached out to the agency.
When the program began, director Judy Millner told NJJN, fewer than 100 members initially signed on.
But over the past five years, Secure@Home has expanded and now serves more than 225 registered adults. It is a membership-based program, with an annual fee of $350 for an individual or $400 for a couple. It also receives funding from donors, JF&CS, and specific grants.
When members join, they receive a complete assessment, including a home safety evaluation. Secure@Home then compiles this information into a care plan and provides care management hours to help coordinate health-related services. Members also receive access to culture and wellness lectures, 24-hour telephone availability to contact Secure@Home in case of an emergency, and a monthly check-in from staff members.
Ruth Randall, who is also president of CWW, said she values Secure@Home’s services. While she and her husband have not yet called for help with a serious medical issue, they have benefited from such services as a ride home from a medical procedure and help moving paper to a recycling bin.
Many of Secure@Home’s volunteers are members of the Chore Corps. They assist clients with such daily household tasks as changing light bulbs, replacing smoke detector batteries, and configuring printers or other devices.
Gil Gordon of Monmouth Junction has been a member of the corps since shortly after its founding. On average, over the past five years, he has helped with three to four visits per week and said he finds the work “very gratifying.”
“It’s really always amazing to me how some of these seemingly minor and insignificant tasks make a very big difference in the lives of these people,” Gordon told NJJN. “In some cases there are things that they’ve lived with for so long that they’ve gotten used to them, like having a light bulb out in a closet that they use often.”
‘A natural fit’
Since it was launched, Secure@Home has increased its number of aging-in-place offerings with a federal grant of $190,000 from the Administration on Aging, according to JF&CS executive director Linda Meisel.
Millner said that besides increasing the Secure@Home clientele over the past five years, the program has “expanded services to meet the needs as they arise for our members.”
“We are what I call a horizontal NORC,” or Naturally Occurring Retirement Community. “A lot of people wanted to stay in this area — in the greater Princeton area — and age in place,” remaining in their homes rather than moving into an adult care community, said Millner, “so we were able to get some federal grant funds for that.”
Since 2007, Secure@Home has added medication management and a larger transportation program called Carolyn’s Cars, which connects residents with the Mercer County RideProvide, a nonprofit transportation service for adults over 65.
Secure@Home has also begun partnering with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton to help coach adults with chronic diseases so that they are less likely to be re-hospitalized.
When he began as a Secure@Home volunteer, Gordon said, he “really didn’t know exactly what I was getting into. But I have always done a lot of that handyman kind of work and enjoy it, so it was a natural fit.
“I’ve also gotten a lot of pleasure out of meeting such a wide range of people in the community.”