Esty had absorbed the message that pervades every nook and cranny at Ezer Mizion: “What else can we do to help those in need?” Esty was hired as a Developmental Aide who met with special needs children several times a week, working to attain the goals set by the therapists. Being well trained in the field and blessed with a lot of initiative and great ideas, she developed a program using games to help meet those goals. A classic Candyland game could work wonders if utilized in the right way, she discovered. It was not long before she was heading Ezer Mizion’s newly founded Game Lending Library. Therapists would use the games to supplement their own supplies and families with special children would meet with her and borrow games based on her recommendation.
A busy mother, at her wits end, is told that her child will grow so much more if Mommy does ‘homework’ with him each day. It’s not that she doesn’t want to obey the therapists’ instructions. It’s not that she doesn’t care about her child reaching his potential. It’s just that after she’s done with the usual work in running a large family in addition to dealing with the clothes dumped out of every drawer for the third time that day by her special child, in addition spending an hour searching the neighborhood when he , once again, maneuvered the complicated lock and escaped through the front door, in addition to dealing with her teenage daughter who is so upset that she can never invite friends over her house, in addition to…, she has no energy – physical or emotional- left to do homework. But a game? That’s different. His siblings can be trained to use it properly. It can be a means of bringing the family closer together in a fun way. A game? A game can be magic.
With the Game Lending Library providing so much for the special children and their families, Ezer Mizion staff began to think of more ways it can be of benefit. It was not long before the Library made its way to Ezer Mizion’s Golden Age Division. Esty with her vast knowledge in utilizing games for cognitive, motor and social stimulation, now adapted it to a project that serves the elderly. A training program for volunteers was instituted which taught the art of playing games and how to use games for promoting social skills, generating social interaction, etc. what games are good for what purposes, how to work the way up in skill acquisition, what to watch out for, etc. The focus is on generating interest and social involvement which is especially important for elderly homebound people who suffer from isolation, depression and lose interest in life. These volunteers go to homes to play games with the elderly. They choose a game that is ability and level appropriate, geared to specific goals. The elderly homebound love it as do their family members and caregivers.
Café Britania (named as such because it was primarily funded by the British ambassador) is a social club for Holocaust survivors. So many of these survivors live alone with little or no extended family. Often, they lose interest in living and withdraw into a ‘living death’. Café Britania becomes their surrogate family, providing an embracing arm filled with reasons to wake up in the morning. It’s a place where they can gather together and be understood both by their fellow club members and by the caring staff. Exercise, brunch, lectures on health maintenance and other topic of interest, creative craft work, gardening, so many projects all serve to renew their interest in daily living. Their bodies are kept active. Interesting ideas fill their minds and they are surrounded by those with whom they can share their thoughts.
The initial group was small but enthusiastic and the game was underway. Sounds of excitement from the group attracted others and it soon doubled in size. The air was alive with electricity as players vied with each other to win. The women were overflowing with happiness and each one strove to be first to shake Esty’s hand and thank her. Battling loneliness of the elderly on a second front, the Game Library has now become an integral part of Ezer Mizion’s program for goldenagers.