Volunteers Support DOROT’s Frail Elderly During Poignant Visits to Cemeteries
Dorothy U. used to take public transportation from Manhattan to visit the grave of her son in Long Island. She stopped two years ago because of the amount of walking involved in getting to the cemetery from the train station, and then within the cemetery to reach the gravesite. “I’m getting older and it’s just too difficult,” she said.
Read a First Person account from a Cemetery Visits
volunteer in The Jewish Week
But this summer, she was able to make the trip again—as a first–time participant in DOROT’s annual Cemetery Visits program. Dozens of volunteers accompanied Dorothy and other frail seniors to cemeteries throughout the greater metropolitan area, providing both physical and emotional support.
For over 30 years, DOROT has offered older adults the opportunity to visit the gravesites of their loved ones with the assistance of caring companions. For many elders, this is their only opportunity to make a journey that is deeply meaningful to them. There is a strong Jewish tradition of visiting the graves of family members before Rosh Hashanah, reciting prayers at the gravesite, and placing a small stone on the headstone to denote the visit. DOROT provides these stones for participants, along with prayer sheets, head coverings, first aid kits, bottles of water, umbrellas, snacks, and tissues.
Volunteers receive a full orientation that includes instructions on escorting an older adult, from picking them up at their homes to guiding them throughout the day; background on customs associated with visiting the cemetery; and guidelines for communicating with the seniors during this emotional time. They are also provided with directions to the cemeteries, information about the deceased, and maps to get them to each gravesite. DOROT coordinates all transportation for the elders and volunteers.
For seniors like Dorothy, the program is invaluable. “This is the only way I can do it,” she said. “It’s a real problem DOROT has solved.”
The program is equally rewarding for the volunteers who escort the seniors.
“Every time I’ve done it, I’ve felt this was such a good deed,” says volunteer and DOROT Board member Sandy Edelman. “The seniors could never have gotten here on their own. The last time I went, one of the elders said, ‘Thank G–d for DOROT.’”
DOROT’s Cemetery Visits Program is generously underwritten by The David Berg Foundation.