Call them the Abbot and Costello of high quality senior living. Or better yet, the Lewis and Clark. The Batman and Robin. However you describe the quarter-century working partnership of Pam Ferris and Craig Lambert to bring San Diego Jewish seniors the best possible quality of life, one thing’s for certain: these two got something right.
Twenty-five years after their first meeting at San Diego State University’s School of Social Work, the two have established themselves as leaders in San Diego’s senior care. Over the years, Ferris, CEO of Seacrest Village, and Lambert, senior director of Older Adults Services at Jewish Family Service, have pooled their resources, skills and knowledge time and again to ensure the best in care and quality of life for local Jewish seniors.
“When you think of a continuum of care, along the way, there are many needs an older person may have,” Lambert says of the specific work he and Ferris do in the community. “At the top there is [Seacrest Village], which includes [among assisted and independent living] an Alzheimer’s facility, all the way down to something like a senior center, which provides activities, programs and services designed to keep people connected to their community.”
Also on the continuum of care is JFS’s Older Adult Services, which provides much-needed programming for older adults who prefer to remain in their own homes but seek friendships and socializing with other local seniors. With three older adult centers, transportation provided through On the Go, a hot food delivery program through JFS’s Foodmobile, and even a Fix-it service for minor home repairs, JFS is a one-stop shop for older adults in San Diego.
“At JFS we’re trying to be an access point where we can either help [senior clients] ourselves, because we provide a lot of the services, or we will refer [them] to someone we know,” Lambert says.
Oftentimes, that referral is to Ferris and Seacrest Village’s retirement communities, either in Rancho Bernardo for independent living or Encinitas for assisted living. Seacrest’s Encinitas center also offers memory care for Alzheimer’s patients and a healthcare center.
Although it may seem Lambert and Ferris are on opposite ends of the senior care spectrum, where they meet is often the most important part of their work.
“When JFS finds a resident in the community who would benefit from our services, that’s when we come together as a community and do our best work to make something happen,” Ferris says.
Over the years, their paths have crossed multiple times. As Ferris was graduating from the School of Social Work, Lambert was beginning his studies there. Following graduation, both worked for the former Hebrew Home for the Aged, located on 54th Street, the first Jewish Senior Center of its kind.
“For its time, [Hebrew Home] was state of the art,” Ferris says. “It was the be-all, end-all [in Jewish Senior Care].”
That is, until the 10-acre plot of land in Encinitas was purchased and Seacrest Village was born. Lambert was chosen to go to Seacrest and begin the process of moving residents from Hebrew Home to the new facility. Ferris stayed at 54th Street with residents who lacked the ability or desire to make the transfer.
In fact, Ferris’s own grandmother, Ida Cohn, was one of the very first residents to move to Seacrest when its first center opened in May 1989. Lambert moved Cohn in and helped her become acclimated to her new living arrangements.
“My mom and I were extremely comforted knowing Craig was there to ease her transition,” Ferris recalls. “[My grandmother] chose to move to Seacrest sight unseen from her home in Florida at the spry age of 96 years old and lived here until she passed at the age of 102. I had the honor of working where she lived for the last years of her life after I transferred to Seacrest in 1990.”
Having that experience, Ferris says, allowed her to understand first-hand the challenges residents face when moving to a new community, and what it’s like for their family members.
Both Lambert and Ferris agree that trying to decide on a home for aging parents or grandparents is one of the most difficult decisions anyone ever has to make.
“Moving into an assisted living or retirement home can be fraught with all kinds of challenges and difficulties for both the senior and their families,” Lambert says.
Today, Ferris handles this job with ease. Her background in social work, like Lambert’s, has helped her navigate the process over the years. She says her residents’ families are an important aspect of the care she provides at Seacrest.
“We should never negate the amount of families we serve, because whenever somebody has their family here, we are serving their entire family unit,” she says. “There is a tremendous amount of relief a family feels upon the placement of a parent or grandparent here.”
And although both JFS and Seacrest can provide support for families when parents and grandparents reach the latter years of their lives, Ferris stresses the importance of adult children speaking with their parents when they’re still young older adults about what they envision their golden years to be like.
Luckily, the number of services JFS and Seacrest offer — and the frequent collaboration between them — is so vast that it’s possible to accommodate most everyone’s wishes.
“All along the way, Pam and I have been connecting and collaborating on a whole variety of issues,” Lambert says, “not the least of which is that [we at JFS] provide a lot of the support services for the seniors who live in her community.”
Lambert says the demarcation between his and Ferris’s work is often the community-based aspect of JFS, and the needs-based aspect of Seacrest’s programming and support.
“The idea is to really be able to help people to feel connected to the Jewish community by knowing their needs can really be met regardless of how they come to us,” he says.
What makes both groups so vital to the Jewish community is this feeling of connectedness to Judaism. Although only a small percentage of the people JFS and Seacrest serve identify as religious, all food served at JFS older adult centers and through the Foodmobile is strictly kosher. The same goes for Seacrest, which employs an in-house rabbi and celebrates all Jewish holidays with gusto. That being said, seniors need not be Jewish to benefit from either organization’s assistance.
“We do so much for the non-Jewish community by demonstrating tikkun olam in almost every program, so that those people who are not Jewish see such a positive aspect of Judaism in our service,” Lambert says.
Today, both Ferris and Lambert focus on their respective communities and look at ways to improve services to their recipients by staying on the cutting edge of aging, listening to what their clients have to say and supporting each other’s cause with the best interest of seniors in mind.
“Everyone wants to be able to age in their own way,” Ferris says, “We want to be able to let them do just that.”
For more information on JFS’s older adult programs, visit www.jfssd.org or call (858) 637-3040.
For a tour or more information about Seacrest Village’s Retirement Communities, visit www.seacrestvillage.org or call (760) 632-0081.
Age: It’s More Than Just a Number
How the baby boom generation is still changing the face of America
1946: The first year of the Baby Boom, when new births in the U.S. skyrocketed to 3.47 million annually. This gigantic generation has transformed America as its members have passed through every season of life.
76 million: The actual number of those born from the start of the boom until 1964, the last year baby boomers were born.
65: The birthday the first of the baby boomers is celebrating this year, meaning they now qualify for Medicare and social security benefits.
10,000: The number of baby boomers, per day, that will reach age 65 beginning January 1, 2011.
19: The number of years the above phenomenon will continue.
More than 50 percent: The amount of consumer spending controlled by the baby boomer generation.
77 percent: The amount of prescription drugs baby boomers purchase. They also purchase 61 percent of over-the-counter medications and are responsible for 80 percent of all leisure travel.