She’s Been Helping Her Elders Since She Was a Teen

Written by Alan Krawitz on . Posted in News Our Town, News Our Town Downtown, News West Side Spirit, Our Town, Our Town Downtown, Special Sections, West Side Spirit, WESTYS.


As someone who has “always felt comfortable working with seniors,” it’s no surprise that Washington Heights resident Miriam Levi has made it her life’s work to help and care for seniors.

Now 39, Levi has been the director of community life activities at Jewish Home Lifecare, which provides health care services for seniors on the Upper West Side.

She recalls moving to New York from Southfield, Mich., a suburb of Detroit, when she was only 20.

“I love the city, with all its many resources at your fingertips. You can go to the theater, parks or museums; really anything you want,” Levi said. “I think the accessibility of the city is really great.”

Some of Levi’s key responsibilities at the Jewish Home include overseeing recreational activities for more than 500 seniors in addition to helping organize a virtual army of 250-plus annual volunteers from community service groups, such as synagogues and churches.

“I’ve loved working with seniors since being a kid—I love being able to enrich their lives in a meaningful way and then to figure out the things seniors like to do and then find ways to make those things happen,” said Levi, who holds a master’s degree in health care management.

Discussing the role of volunteers, Levi recalls her own early volunteer experiences as a teen back in Michigan. “I started volunteering at a local Jewish nursing home in Southfield when I was only 15 and I found it very rewarding,” she says.

Recent examples of corporate volunteer groups included employees from Turner Broadcasting and UJA who came to donate their time to either help residents with tasks such as writing letters or using computers to send messages to relatives and loved ones.

“Our elders really benefit from these volunteer experiences,” Levis said. “The coordination of all the volunteer groups is a mutually beneficial arrangement because not only do our seniors benefit from the engagement and interaction with people, but the volunteers themselves learn a great deal and also gain tremendous satisfaction from helping people in their community.”

Further, Levi also serves as co-chair of a combined committee of union and staff members working to transition the home toward a new building on 96th Street in a few years in addition to a new type of self-directed care for elders dubbed “Green House.”

“I’ve worked hard with many different people to help manage this somewhat major transition,” Levi says.

Judith Nicholson, an administrator with Jewish Home Lifecare, counts herself lucky to have Levi as a colleague. “Miriam truly understands … how to brighten the lives of our elders while providing rich volunteer opportunities for our neighbors and surrounding community,” Nicholson said.

“I have had the pleasure of working with Miriam for many years and must tell you that I don’t know where she gets the time or energy to do it all—but I am certainly very, very grateful that she is here.”

Levi says that health care is forever changing.

“One of my biggest concerns,” she said, “is that we don’t forget about the elderly. If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be able to do what we’re doing today.”

She relates how the home has been working to make better use of technology to keep its residents connected.

“We recently purchased iPads and have been working with college/school groups to teach our seniors how to use the iPads to send email and search the Internet,” Levi says. “We want our residents to do the same things everyone else is doing online.”

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