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HomeTwo East Bay Orgs Join Forces

Two East Bay Organizations Join Forces to Aid Older Adults

For Release: Monday, June 22, 2020                                     

Contact: Su-Yin Bickner,

The pandemic has robbed many people and groups of opportunities. But two well-respected local East Bay groups have seen these hard times as a pathway to create a new program that has long been needed and will help older people struggling with the stresses and isolation related to COVID-19.

Ashby Village (AV), which helps older adults thrive while staying in their homes and communities, and the Wright Institute, which prepares students for doctorate and masters’ degrees in psychology, will begin immediately offering free or low-cost tele-therapy to seniors in the East Bay. It’s free to Ashby Village members and others will pay on a sliding scale. The new program will continue even after this current emergency.

“I thought Ashby Village members might need some help during the shutdown,” said Dr. Janet Hurwich, an AV Member and Chair of the California Psychological Association Foundation board. “I’m older and I had a very adverse reaction during the first two weeks. I felt rather depressed and anxious. I didn’t like being constrained to my house. I’m a psychologist and know how to reach out and get help but I thought other older people might need some support.”

Dr. Hurwich contacted Dr. Gilbert Newman. Vice President for Academic Affairs at the Wright Institute, telling him she knew of a population who could use help. She asked if he had students who could step up. It was perfect timing. During the pandemic, many of The Wright Institute’s students, who typically gain 2000 hours of supervised practicum training prior to their doctoral internship, were unable to accrue a sufficient number of hours required to be competitive for internship.

 “The pandemic has made some activities almost impossible to perform in person:  Anything that required in person service—things like assessment, work in an emergency locked ward—some students didn’t have as much opportunity.  This is a win/win solution.”

Andy Gaines, the Executive Director of Ashby Village, agrees that older adults are facing greater challenges and concerns and more health issues than the general population right now. “This is an opportunity, a pathway for our members to get free support and counseling.” Although Ashby Village has a Phone Friends program, where volunteers keep in touch with members, Gaines says the Wright Institute therapists can provide services beyond what his volunteers can do. “The Wright Institute is deeply committed to community service. And they’ve built an infrastructure to support our program."

That infrastructure includes hand-picked older supervisors with experience in dealing with older adults to oversee the students; special weekly training to focus on issues and challenges facing elders and a special website.

Newman is delighted that something he’s considered important for a long time has come to fruition. “The pandemic has just created the reality that would have happened someday, allowing online and telephone services to be seen as fully legitimate and helpful to the general public. “This has been coming for a long time. It’s an opportunity to work with people who are living independently, who are suffering the same stresses as other people plus some that are unique to growing old. It’s a chance to engage our expertise with a deserving population.”

Hurwich encourages any Ashby Village or *East Bay elder who is struggling with depression, isolation or other issues to “just pick up the phone and make an appointment. It can be really really helpful and everything is confidential. People who are interested in services or simply learning more, should call The Wright Institute Older Adult Counseling and Psychological Services at 510-239-2017.  # # #