JFS provides specialized support to connect our eldest New Americans to appropriate services, reduce isolation, and foster community connections.
Mary and Jon’s Story:
Mary and Jon, originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, arrived to the US in July 2017. Initially resettled with their adult son in Springfield, they faced many barriers when they first arrived – neither could read or write in English or Swahili. Though eager to learn, they didn’t easily understand US systems, not having had similar systems in their home country or in the refugee camps where they lived before coming to the US. After initial resettlement, Jon was enrolled in JFS’s Program to Enhance Elder Refugee Support (PEERS) and Mary was enrolled in intensive case management through the Preferred Communities (PC) Program.
During the pandemic, the team arranged for them to move to emergency housing over roommate concerns due to COVID-19 transition. The programs helped them purchase PPE, helped cover rent after a roommate moved out, and helped them apply for senior housing. They now live in senior housing, they received a farmshare through JFS’s partnership with Gardening the Community and have two community garden plots through Concerned Citizens for Springfield, and are settling into life in Springfield. They have proven to be resilient and approach any issue with good humor, a positive attitude, and with strong community support. Mary and Jon look forward to beginning the process to become US citizens this year.
Elder refugees arrive with specific challenges and are at-risk in many ways the younger generation is not. They are at-risk for becoming socially isolated, they often have lower literacy or formal education levels, and they face greater difficulty in learning technology, English to navigate US systems, and often need support for a longer period. JFS assists refugee elders for five years or more after arrival – through assisting them to apply for US citizenship.