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The Nursing Home Show.

The Hebrew Home for the Aged at Riverdale, in Riverdale, NY, is known for its innovations, not the least of which is an art collection that would rival those of some museums. It should be no surprise, then, that the Hebrew Home has its own public access television show.

The show, called "You Should Live So Long," is the brainchild of Hebrew Home Executive Vice-President Daniel Reingold, MSW, JD. "We wanted to explore some nontraditional avenues for educating the public about issues related to aging and, at the same time, increase our name recognition in what is an increasingly competitive market." To this end, plans were made to launch a series of weekly, half-hour talk shows, the first of which aired four years ago.

Hosted by Nelson Burros, MSW, the Hebrew Home's director of Resident Support Programs, each show features one to three panelists discussing a topic of interest to the show's target audience--older adult residents of the New York City area and those involved in their care, particularly family members. Topics have ranged from problems associated with aging (Alzheimer's disease, arthritis, elder abuse, memory loss) to services intended to address aging-related problems (hospice, respite care, home care, assisted living) to opportunities for older adults (volunteerism, horticulture, lifelong learning).

Panelists have included some prominent experts in areas related to the field of aging: an attorney specializing in elder law, professors of medicine, the New York state elder hostel coordinator and the associate director of the Medicare Rights Center, to name a few. "Whenever possible," says Burros, "we try to select panelists with hands-on experience with the topic being discussed." To that end, Hebrew Home staff members have also appeared as guests on the show.

Once the guests have been identified and have agreed to do the show, Burros prepares a framework of questions for the panelists, based on information obtained during a conference call with the guests one week prior to the taping. This approach is also helpful for guests who will be making their TV debut on the show. "We do our best to make this a positive, comfortable experience for our speakers," says Burros, who notes that bright lights and cameras can be intimidating at first--something to which yours truly can attest after appearing on the show to talk about the widely known Eden Alternative for "bringing life to nursing homes."

The shows are taped every two weeks at Bronx Net, a public access, nonprofit community television center. Copies of the tape are then made for distribution to five public access stations for airing in the Hebrew Home's primary community service catchment areas: Manhattan during midday on Mondays, the Bronx three times throughout the day on Mondays, and Westchester County between 6:30 p.m. and 1:00 a.m.--what Reingold calls peak viewing time--on various weekday evenings. The shows air throughout the year, and several of the stations broadcast one show for two weeks at a time. Part of the challenge, says Reingold, was getting the right public access channels to accept the program to ensure that the target audience would be covered.

The Hebrew Home is especially grateful to Bronx Net, which provides the studio time at a modest fee. "Seniors and their families are among the most underserved populations in the Bronx," says Jim Carney, executive director of Bronx Net. "The partnership with the Hebrew Home helps us to reach out to institutions in the Bronx, which is part of our mandate."

Because Bronx Net is based in a college, technical support is provided by students being trained in telecommunications and related fields. Reingold notes that some stations will provide technical training for a producer who prefers the do-it-yourself approach.

The main costs associated with producing such a show are the studio fees (usually about $100/hour), the cost of reproducing the tapes (relatively modest if tapes are purchased in large quantities) and transportation to and from the studio for guests, something that might not be required in a smaller city or town. "All in all," says Reingold, "this is a modest investment compared to the costs associated with other educational and marketing strategies."

The Accolades

"You Should Live So Long" was the recipient of the New York Association of Homes and Services for the Aging's 1998 Innovation of the Year Award. Reingold and Burros note that other nonprofit organizations are beginning to do shows with similar formats.

But is the show reaching its intended audience? Is it enhancing the Hebrew Home's name recognition and visibility? While public access TV shows don't have "ratings." Reingold notes that there has been an increase in the number of calls to the Hebrew Home's community services and residential programs since the show began airing, and reiterates that the show is broadcast in the Hebrew Home's primary community services catchment areas.

"The show also has a positive impact on staff morale," says Burros, who notes that staff members take pride in the knowledge that their organization is able to undertake such an impressive endeavor. Reingold adds that the show has served as a vehicle for inviting prominent policy makers and other professionals to become involved with the Hebrew Home. What's more, because the Hebrew Home is equipped with cable and also rebroadcasts some of the shows for in-house viewing, the residents and their families have the opportunity to share in this sense of pride.

Words of Advice

According to Reingold, this type of project can be replicated with relative ease by large or small facilities in any community in the country. "The first step is to contact the local public access stations. Under the Telecommunications Act, local cable TV companies are mandated to provide public access programming as part of their licensing requirements. They will be more than happy to talk with people who are able to help them fulfill that mandate with quality programming."

Burros, who has survived some near disasters, including a studio fire, stresses the importance of planning ahead and expecting the unexpected, and notes that the time involved in doing so is arguably the most difficult aspect of the process. But both Reingold and Burros strongly encourage others to take the leap.

Laura Bruck is a contributing editor to Nursing Homes/ Long Term Care Management.
COPYRIGHT 1999 Medquest Communications, LLC
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Copyright 1999, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Bruck, Laura
Publication:Nursing Homes
Geographic Code:1U2NY
Date:Dec 1, 1999
Words:1041
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