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Audio: The Miracle Baby Who Grows Up to Help the Elderly

Debbie Dan was never expected to live. She now dedicates her life to helping the elderly.
12/21/2012, 11:21 AM

A7 Radio's "Life Lessons with Judy Simon" with Judy Simon
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Debbie Dan was the miracle baby. Born in the 6th month of pregnancy to a mother who had suffered many miscarriages, Debbie weighed in at just over one pound. Her survival was both a miracle and a tremendous act of chessed or self-sacrifice by her doctor, who fed her with an eyedropper for her first few weeks of life.

This southern girl, native of Danville, Virginia, studied in New York and got her bachelor's degree in social work and her master's degree in what was then a new field -- gerontology. When asked why she chose the elderly as her field of study, she explained, "I was an only child, and my grandparents lived with us." Growing up with grandparents instead of siblings gave Debbie a strong affection towards the elderly.

Now a mother to six and a grandmother many times over, Debbie lives in Israel and specializes in care of the elderly. She started a Golden Age Club in her hometown of Beit El twenty years ago, primarily to help give her aging mother something to look forward to each day. Debbie, who recently took an early retirement from her Club, developed it to the point where there are three distinct groups of elderly who benefit: 55+, 70+ and those who are in early stages of dementia. She is also active in the group Melabev, which specializes in activities and programs for people with Alzheimer's.

Debbie has advice for people who are beginning to grow old, to help prevent or slow the onset of dementia. "Keep your mind active. Play games, do puzzles, keep thinking." She also has advice for family members who want to help their elderly parents or grandparents maintain independence. "Let them do as much as they can. They need to feel useful. Don't feel guilty about letting them do the dishes or help out; they will feel good about it. My own mother always had help when I was growing up, and when she moved near me, she did more housework than she ever did at her own home. But it was good. She felt good about it."

Do you have any questions about your own loved ones who are aging? Debbie is an outstanding listener, and gives loving, sage advice. Tune in!

Judy Simon is the host of the show Life Lessons and the mother of six children. After almost 20 years of teaching English and special education, Judy now serves as the Beit El Tourism Coordinator, and organizes tours of the site of Jacob's Dream in Beit El. Check out Beit El's website: and "like" the Beit El Heritage Center Facebook page: To "like" the Hebrew page: Life Lessons explores fascinating people from all walks of life and follows their stories of lessons learned along the way. The Life Lessons podcast airs every Thursday from 6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. Israel time on Israel National Radio.
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