MILWAUKEE – The death of a spouse or loved one can be particularly difficult for seniors, a hardship that Bobbie Mendelsohn has experienced firsthand. Her response? Create the Young at Hearts senior group at Congregation Shalom.
“My husband had died and I went to some of these grief groups,” Mendelsohn, 77, remembers. “I found that some of these people were so lonely, including me. Their friends had dropped them and some of them didn’t drive.”
Mendelsohn concentrated her energy on helping others in predicaments similar to her own and those she had witnessed at other meetings. “I thought, well, we need to do something about this.”
Instead of looking for a new grief group to attend, Mendelsohn decided to establish something slightly different at Congregation Shalom. The Young at Hearts group, now in its third year, allows seniors the opportunity to socialize and spend time with others who have experienced loss, or just to build new friendships.
Although the catalyst for the Young at Hearts group was grounded in Mendelsohn’s experiences at grief meetings, the focus of the group extends beyond discussing the specifics of life after loss. New friendships, fun and simply enjoying time spent with peers are the goals for the Young at Hearts group, according to Mendelsohn.
“What I wanted to happen from this group is that other people make nice friends,” Mendelsohn said. “And if they wanted to go to Temple on a Friday night they would have somebody to go with, if they wanted to go to the movies, or if they wanted to play mahjong, you know, they would have people to play with.”
As the coordinator for the group, Mendelsohn tries to arrange a variety of different activities for those who attend, including appearances from guest speakers to field trips to the Arlington race track, the Jewish Museum Milwaukee, and even a margarita cruise.
Guest speakers and visitors have included Congregation Shalom rabbis, officers from the Milwaukee Police Department who speak to members about safety issues, representatives from Jewish Family Services, and various local musicians.
The Young at Hearts currently have a consistent membership of about 20 people, but are looking to expand both inside and outside of Congregation Shalom.
“Now we’re inviting other seniors from other temples to join us,” Mendelsohn said. “We’ve had a few, but I would like more. It’s fun, it’s interesting, it’s helpful to not to have to be alone if you don’t want to, and it’s something they look forward to the second Wednesday of each month.”
A member of Congregation Shalom for about 15 years, Mendelsohn expressed her own familiarity with the struggle of relying on other friends and family members, issues that many seniors face after they’ve experienced a loss. Though one of her children lives in the area, Mendelsohn stated that she tries not to become too dependent on him.
“Maybe just to change light bulbs,” she laughed.
Overall, Mendelsohn hopes other seniors will welcome the Young at Hearts group as an opportunity to reduce the loneliness they may feel.
“I’m glad I did it because I know it helped me, and I’m sure it helped other people,” she said. “I’ve made a couple good friends. It is worthwhile. It’s sad to be alone. So this is just one thing that they can do to look forward to.”
The Young at Hearts group meets every second Wednesday of the month in the Kesselman Chapel at Congregation Shalom, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m, and is open to Jewish seniors 60 years old and over, both affiliated and unaffiliated with Congregation Shalom. Attendees are welcome to enjoy lunch with members after the meetings. Those interested in joining can call Bobbie Mendelsohn at (414) 352-3623. For more information, visit the Congregation Shalom website at Cong-Shalom.org/Young-Hearts-Monthly-Gathering
How to Join
The Young at Hearts group meets every second Wednesday of the month at Congregation Shalom, 7630 N Santa Monica Blvd., Fox Point, at 10 a.m. and is open to Jewish seniors 60 years old and over, both affiliated and unaffiliated with Congregation Shalom. For more information, call Bobbie Mendelsohn at (414) 352-3623.