Senior partners

Q: How do you know a parking spot is legal in Berkeley?
A: Someone’s parked in it.

For the average person, scoring a choice Berkeley parking spot is prime dinnertime conversation material. But for older folks hoping to avail themselves of the JFCS of the East Bay’s services and unable to go for a hike, it was a serious problem.

That’s one of the reasons Ada Burko is so pleased. The director of the Jewish Family and Children’s Services’ new Center for Older Adult Services is not only ecstatic to have a building of her own — she’s glad people will actually be able to get to it in Albany, where on-street parking is plentiful.

“It is not formally open, but some of my old clients are coming over here, and they cannot stop praising it,” she said of the new storefront location on San Pablo Avenue, near Beverages & More. Served by local buses, the new center is several miles north of its previous location in JFCS’ downtown Berkeley suite.

The center officially opens for business on Monday, March 21, and Burko has big plans.

In addition to continuing the elder services JFCS already offered, she hopes to take advantage of her new space to put older folks to work.

“Here is a place where seniors can help seniors by being on the phone, by calling up and checking on them,” she said.

The volunteers will know “what resources there are in the East Bay. We will also be training them to be a support system. We will build up a larger system of seniors helping seniors. Our responsibility will be to empower older adults, not just provide for them. The sense of this place is what [seniors] can still give to others. It’s wonderful. It really inspires us all.”

The seniors manning the phones and computer centers at the new center will be keeping abreast of all the latest developments in local senior care. Burko notes that programs are opening all the time; even she was recently surprised to discover a new service for elders with Parkinson’s disease.

With augmented space and a volunteer pool, Burko also plans on reaching out to aid the grown children of aging parents.

Berkeley’s Shari Simburg — who fits that criterion — has already taken up the JFCS on that offer. Her mother and stepfather, 87-year-old Pearl and 91-year-old Ted Tarail, still live at home, thanks to JFCS caseworkers and care-givers.

“The challenge when you’re wading through medical, legal and financial matters is helping your parents maintain a life of dignity as they’re aging. It’s hard to know where to go to get information like that as well as people who you can trust taking care of them,” she said.

“In terms of an information resource, I expect [the new center] to be immensely helpful to my family.”

JFCS of the East Bay’s Center for Older Adult Services is at 828 San Pablo Ave., Albany. Information: (510) 704-7475.

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi is a columnist at Mission Local. He is also former editor-at-large at San Francisco Magazine, former columnist at SF Weekly and a former J. staff writer.