“I think without this program, a lot of people would be a lot lonelier,” said Stanley Slomovits over a recent Zoom call. Slomovits was talking about the Uniper Cares program, which connects seniors through live virtual programming.
Seniors from around the country can connect through their TVs and mobile devices to a number of virtual peer-led groups. “I run a current events group where we talk about what’s going on in the news, and I lead an art appreciation group,” he explained. “I switch off which program I do every two weeks.”
JFS Cincinnati Welcomes Uniper Technology
Jewish Family Service of Cincinnati (JFS) was one of the first organizations in the country to receive and implement a Uniper Cares grant from the Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies (NJHSA). It has allowed Uniper devices, which are small boxes that connect the television to the internet, to be installed in the homes of 25 Holocaust survivors in Greater Cincinnati. JFS will install devices in another 25 homes in 2021. Participants can connect with people around the world through live activities and an on-demand video library.
Fighting Social Isolation Among Holocaust Survivors
“The idea behind having them access programming on their TV versus a tablet or smartphone is simple: they’re comfortable with how to use their TV,” explained Meredith Davis, the director of the JFS’s Center for Holocaust Survivors. “We want to make accessing this programming as easy as possible.” Davis said the Uniper devices also allow video calling, so users can stay in touch with loved ones. “Our Holocaust survivors are among our most vulnerable clients,” Davis said, “so we want to make sure they are not forgotten.”
“I appreciate that they recognize the importance of connecting us and making us feel less alone. It’s beautiful.”
Connecting Over Shared Histories
“This is an excellent chance to meet other people from all around the country and the world,” Slomovits said. “They meet these people on their screens, and they get to chat about the weather, or share tips about how to handle the situation during COVID, or connect over a shared history. These are older adults like me, and a lot of them live alone and might not have any visitors, so this is a great opportunity for them.”
Slomovits said he reads all of the international newspapers to stay up on what’s going on, so he can lead meaningful discussions. He said it’s fun for him to see people become engaged in his programs. “I love seeing participants who are involved and give their opinions—it’s a very diverse group. I don't care what their opinions are, I just want to give everybody a chance to share. Having discourse is very important.”
Older Adults, Clay, and Shoulder Rolls
Slomovits studied art for two years and focuses his group primarily on art theory and discussion. He said during COVID it’s hard for his participants to always get the necessary supplies to create art themselves, but “we do work with clay—it gives them the chance to work their hands, which is very important as we get older. I also like to end both groups with a few neck or shoulder rolls—get the body moving a little bit.”
Helping Holocaust Survivors, Worldwide
Uniper Cares is an Israeli program, which launched in 2020, and helped connect 300 isolated Holocaust survivors around the globe. In 2021, the program has expanded to serve 800 older adults with a history of trauma. “The NJHSA is proud to expand this program at a time during the pandemic where social isolation has created troubling and ongoing challenges for many vulnerable populations,” said Reuben Rotman, President & CEO of NJHSA.
“I’m very happy that JFS and NJHSA have continued this program,” said Slomovits. “I appreciate that they recognize the importance of connecting us and making us feel less alone. It’s beautiful.”