Posted by Kathy Burnes

Three ladies sitting together on a benchAcademic community based partnerships are a vital tool in bridging theory and practice and keeping the work real!

Social isolation is a central theme addressed throughout all of the 40 programs provided by Jewish Family & Children's Service. We are a social impact organization serving more than 17,000 people of all ages each year in 250 Massachusetts communities. Our work focuses on the importance of building and maintaining connections that foster the health and well-being of individuals and families.

We have been delighted to partner with the Boston College Hartford Center of Excellence in spotlighting the issue of social isolation. Through collaborative conversations that focus on translating research into practice, JF&CS and Boston College Hartford Center of Excellence have explored the ways in which JF&CS addresses social isolation, particularly among older adults. As a result of these conversations, JF&CS has incorporated tools that help target and measure social isolation at the individual level.

The motto we see every day at JF&CS as we go up and down the stairs of our building is "Everyone has a purpose in life. Ours is to help people of all ages and backgrounds pursue theirs." A sense of purpose is deeply intertwined with connection. The central theme for all JF&CS programs and services for older adults is building connections and community through "high touch" interactions.

Programs for older adults range from resource and referral to guardianship. We provide services for Holocaust survivors, intensive geriatric care management, age-friendly projects, Jewish Healing Connections, Wise Aging workshops, and geriatric mental health counseling. Our programs for families dealing with Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease include Parkinson's dance and the Tremble Clefs choral group, our Memory Café, and other networking, creative arts, and support services. Our bottom-line question is: Are we succeeding in increasing connection to resources, support, and sense of community for those who are at risk for social isolation? Are we helping people to understand and pursue their purpose?

We are committed to data-driven outcomes assessment to measure program impact and support continuous improvement. As a result of our work with Boston College Hartford Center of Excellence we have recently incorporated the use of the Lubben Social Network Scale - 6 (LSNS-6) into our home-based geriatric mental health counseling services. We anticipate that this tool will facilitate an ongoing dialogue between clinicians and their clients about social connection. In addition to measuring social networks using the LSNS-6, we will also evaluate the effectiveness of the scale in generating information that leads to more specific interventions.

Kathy BurnesKathy Burnes is Director of the JF&CS Center on Aging in Community, which sponsors programs and projects that promote social engagement, mental health, and quality of life for older adults and their care partners. These programs build on the power of local communities to encourage positive aging through social connection, the arts, spirituality, and support. Prior to coming to JF&CS in 2007, Kathy worked as a senior research associate at Boston College's Center for Corporate Citizenship and at the National Center on Women and Aging at Brandeis University. Kathy also worked for AARP and Operation ABLE of Greater Boston. She has a BA from the University of Michigan and a MEd in Rehabilitation Counseling from Northeastern University.