Senior service sets up shop in Franklin Square

Older adults can receive help with chores in Franklin Square

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Franklin Square resident Herman Soblick, 92, said he still can see the television and lights, but not much more than that. He can still walk and carry out most other daily living tasks in his Barrymore Boulevard home, but he cannot drive.

Soblick receives financial assistance from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for a home-care worker who comes five days a week for eight hours a day. Without any service, he said, he doesn't know how he would do some chores around the house or make it to his medical appointments.Soblick is one of a number of Franklin Square residents who are benefiting from a type of service that heps him with daily tasks.

"I'm usually gone to appointments for most of my day every week," he said. "I took good care of my health as a young man, and was very active. That's why I'm still able to do so many things. It's just my vision that holds me back." He also gets help with reading the fine print on documents.

Not all seniors are fortunate to have daily assistance, so for those who need it, the Umbrella of the Capital District,  connects older adults in need of services with caregivers. 

Ron Byrne created The Umbrella of the Capital District in the Albany region 22 years ago. He didn't have plans to expand the business until recently, when his company set up an office in Brooklyn and extended the business into Franklin Square as well.  

Two decades ago, Byrne's mother broke her collarbone and femur, and he was unable to assist her because he was living in Chicago at the time. "I wished I were closer to help her," he recalled. "Then I noticed something amazing happened. She had peers to help her around the house. Over the couple of years of her recovery, she always had someone to help her get things done around the house."

For $12 an hour, The Umbrella of the Capital District provides an array of services, from caring for pets to fixing leaky faucets and mowing the lawn.   

Lindsay Ullman established the company's Park Slope office and quickly made notice of Franklin Square. "When I looked at the elderly demographics, I noticed that the elderly population in Franklin Square was between 10 to 15 percent above the national average of people aged 65 and above," Ullman said. "Another reason Franklin Square was ideal was because it's a community close enough to the city."

As many as 85 percent of people don't want to leave their homes and move into group-living centers as they age, according to Ulman. Their inability to care for their houses, however, often forces them out. 

"The Umbrella of the Capital District is not a franchise," Byrne said. "But Lindsay and her business partner, Sam [Gerstenzang], were so enthusiastic, as their own grandparents participated in the program, and believed in what the service does for seniors, I decided that working with them would be beneficial for all of us."

Franklin Square, Ulman said, appeared to be in need of the services that Byrne's company provides. "There was a desire on both sides for people to do meaningful work and get a little money on the side to help with stuff they know how to do, like experts," she said.

Ullman approached the Town of Hempstead senior center's Elaine Ryan to ask whether the service would succeed in Franklin Square. Ryan said that as a referral system, it could work in the

community.

 "I think it's a very necessary service, and our seniors could use it here," Ryan said.

"(Umbrella) is a win-win: seniors have a single trusted place to turn to get things done and qualified seniors can do meaningful work while earning a little extra money," Ullman said.

The Franklin Square service, known simply as Umbrella, will launch within the next month. The only difference from the original program, other than the name, is in service cost. Umbrella will cost $15 per hour for a service., $3 more than the original program. Both programs do background checks on service providers. Call (516) 882-4498 for more information.