Lifeforce in Later Years or “LiLY” was founded in 2009 by a group of concerned people whose experiences with oldest family members were eye-opening.
They found that families are often caught off guard in meeting the challenges they face when an elderly relative is no longer able to have their needs met through living entirely independently. They found that, in our culture, elders and their families don’t often know about the hardships that can befall an aging loved one in need. And, they found a care system which did not effectively respond.
LiLY’s founder, Irene Zola, is a firm believer in the power of critical thinking and creative collaborations. After the death of her mother, Faye Zola (1911-2008), she met with like-minded people to create an organization that would provide life-affirming programs, all aimed at confronting the issues that face elderly people in need, including:
– a culture that has made invisible the plight of the very old and their families
– an inadequate health care system
– living in a time when the number of elders 85+ who are living alone is mushrooming
– nursing homes without the capacity to fill the array of individual needs of elder residents
LiLY’s first project was to develop a community based eldercare program in Morningside Heights in Manhattan, its award winning “Morningside Village”, which has been nationally recognized for its trained and caring corps of dedicated volunteers. They are helping approx.100 neighborhood elders, free of charge, to remain comfortably in their own homes as they age.
When Zola was noted as a CNN Hero in 2010 and when LiLY’s work was publicized by AARP 2012 and 2013, LiLY’s phone began ringing off the hook. People from almost every state in the union were calling to find out how volunteers could help older seniors in their communities. Thus, LiLY published its free of charge online guidelines, explaining how neighbors could create a volunteer-based elder-care group. LiLY is also helping to replicate its model elsewhere, for example in West Harlem in Manhattan; in the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York; in Solano County, California; and in Fairfield, Illinois.
As a response to the ageism and the resultant marginalization that too many older seniors feel, in 2012, LiLY initiated its national awareness campaign, with its October Celebrate Our Elders Week initiative. This date corresponds to the U.N.’s International Day to Honor Older Adults. Beginning locally on Manhattan’s upper west side, with events and advertisements in public places, over time LiLY has expanded the campaign through celebrations, such as its annual Legacies award night, through psa videos, social media, partnerships with schools and more.