A call for a social worker for the Island’s elderly

Senior Citizens Foundation makes pitch to board

by Ambrose Clancy, Editor, Shelter Island Reporter, 9/28/2017

Senior Center Director Laurie Fanelli

A resident addressed the Town Board at its Tuesday work session to alert members of a “looming crisis,” but one that has a remedy.

All it takes is money.

Robert Lipsyte, a director of the Senior Citizens Foundation, reminded the board that the Island’s elderly population, which he said was proportionately higher than most American towns, is increasing.

A survey is underway by the foundation, Mr. Lipsyte said, and early responses have shown a larger than expected number of residents over 85 “living alone and with serious health problems,” including Parkinson’s Disease, dementia and alcoholism.

These seniors living alone need help, more than the Senior Center Director Laurie Fanelli — whom Mr. Lipsyte characterized as “ indefatigable” — can provide on her own and with just a handful of volunteers. He spoke of one day last week, for example, when Ms. Fanelli took four “desperate” phone calls from “four isolated, frightened seniors who needed help right away.”

The plan is to hire a geriatric social worker who can field calls, investigate and evaluate the needs of seniors, particularly those living alone.

“We hope you will remember some of your most vulnerable and needy constituents — parent and grandparents depending on you.”

Supervisor Jim Dougherty thanked Mr. Lipsyte for bringing the issue to the board’s attention and said the request from the Senior Citizens Foundation would be considered.

A non-profit charitable foundation serving Shelter Island's senior citizens