MR. RUSSO: Welcome, everyone, to Family Cornes First. Russo. I’m Vincent J. Russo.

MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: And I’m Victoria Roberts-Drogin. Thank you for joining us today.

In today ‘s modern world, everyone is living longer. In fact, the fastest growing age group is the 90 and older group; over two million strong.

MR. RUSSO: So, one might ask, ”What do Lego ‘s have to do with 90-year olds? ”

MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: What do they?

MR. RUSSO: Today, we will find out, as Lynda Levy shares the story of her 97-year old father, Manny Silberman, and his incredible Lego’s.

MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: He is inspiring. We will also meet with our experts, Vicki Ellner from Senior Umbrella Network Brooklyn, and Deanna Eble, an associate with your law firm, Vincent, to discuss elder care issues facing our seniors who want to remain at home. But first, let’s take a look at Manny ‘s world.

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MR. SILBERMAN: My name is Manny Silberman. I am 97-year old. I met my wife, I was stationed at Mitchell Field, which was a local airbase, and I went to a dance that was controlled by some source, and while I was there, my wife, Sylvia, was also attending the same dance, and I got to know her by asking her to dance. She was a good-looking chick, and she danced rather well, and it went on to be our real pastime. After I was discharged, we used to go dancing all the time after we were married. I was in the service during World War II. I was in the Air Force. I was a master sergeant. Basically, I was a mechanic. Well, I could be cute and say, if you went up in the planes, you could get killed, but I maintained a groundcrew way of doing my job, and so it cut down the time I had to fly in the airplanes. It was my daughter, Barbara, who helped me decide to pursue the pastime that the Lego ‘s offered me. She saw it was such a thing possible, and I liked what they had to offer as far as pacing my time rather than just, let’s say, a lot of men my age would just sit and watch television or fall asleep in the E-Z chair. So, we pursued the pursuit of creating the things you see around me by creating something that had some meaning, and that’ s the reason I pursued the Lego way of pacing my time away. We still continue doing it, as long as the Lego ‘s are available or were available, and it goes on until this very day. I have been offered to move to live with them, but I didn ‘t think I was at that point in my life where it was really necessary, as long as we could find something that would pass my time away in a creative way.

MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: We are talking today about senior living, and how to live well and have a great quality of life at all ages.

MR. RUSSO: Victoria, this is going to be an awesome show. A real ”feel good ” show.

MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: Very excited.

MR. RUSSO: Joining us today is Lynda Levy to talk about her father, Manny Silberman who has decided he ‘s going to stay at home, and he ‘s in his nineties. Thanks for being here.

MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: Yes. MS. LEVY: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: So your father is sort of a minor celebrity in some ways, and we discovered him because of his passion for Lego ‘s, and we ‘ll talk about that but I want to back up a little bit, because I know you had mentioned to us that he recently lost his wife, your mom.

MS. LEVY: Yes. MS.

ROBERTS-DROGIN: And that’s a terribly traumatic event at any age, but he was how old?

MS. LEVY: My dad was then almost 95.

MR. RUSSO: Only 95, huh?

MS. LEVY: Yes, only 95.

MR. RUSSO: And now he ‘s 97.

MS. LEVY: Yes. Yes.

MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: And they were very much in love.

MS. LEVY: Very much in love, very connected, long-term marriage; basically, connected at the hip.

MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: They were both living at home together.

MS. LEVY: Yes, yes.

MR. RUSSO: Wow, so they were married sixty-seven years?

MS. LEVY: Sixty-seven years.

MR. RUSSO: Wow, God bless them.

MS. LEVY: Sixty-seven years, yes.

MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: That ‘s amazing. MR. RUSSO: Yes.

MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: And wonderful.

MS. LEVY: Yes, it is amazing and it was very difficult. It was a gigantic loss. My dad is extremely stoic, and even today, he will rarely talk about her. I think it’s just perhaps too emotional.

MR. RUSSO: It’s in his heart.

MS. LEVY: It’s in his heart, and honestly, he wears a dog tag. My sister had a dog tag made of my mother and my dad at some affair. So, he wears a dog tag every day, and –

MR. RUSSO: So he had fought in World War II?

MS. LEVY: Yes, yes. So, he takes the dog tag, and every day will lift it and kiss it.

MR. RUSSO: Well, you know, when he mentioned about this ”good looking chick ”, I said, man this person has a lot of energy and spunk.

MS. LEVY: Oh, no. He never showed that side, if he was a wild man or a party man. He was very conservative with his daughters, so we would get – – – I know he has a sense of humor, because I see glimmers of it, still. And that ‘s the joy. That ‘s the joy.

MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: And you said he was always very creative, and liked to work with his hands, liked to build things. I know he was an engineer. He told us in the package that we had watched, and he told us about his career, and how he worked on planes. MS. LEVY: Yes. He was in the Army Air Force, and he was a mechanic, and he became a master sergeant. It’s defined him his entire life, and as I grew up, he would always tinker around the house and make projects and build things, so –

MR. RUSSO: It’s a talent that I do not have.


MR. RUSSO: I cannot fix anything, but – – –

MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: [Laughs] MR. RUSSO: – – – Lego ‘s, obviously is the big deal right now here, but before .you get –

MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: The love of his life. Yes.

MR. RUSSO: – – – before you get there, talk about the other hobbies that led to the Lego ‘s.

MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: Well, you had to keep him engaged after his wife died.

MS. LEVY: Yes, after my mom died, you know, it was how to keep him occupied.

MR. RUSSO: Right.

MS. LEVY: He did not want to live with my sister and me, and my sister decided that she would introduce him to a jigsaw puzzle.

MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: Okay. MS. LEVY: But the big ones; the thousand pieces.

MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: Those make me nervous.

MS. LEVY: Yes, they make me nervous.

MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: It’s a real art.

MS. LEVY: I’m not really that good, but he liked it. In fact, there were one or two caregivers that would sit with him and participate, which was really –

MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: That ‘s very special. MS. LEVY: It was special, too.

MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: Yes, to find that bond over something.

MS. LEVY: Yes. So –

MR. RUSSO: So he mastered the –

MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: The thousand-piece puzzles.

MR. RUSSO: and then – – – – these puzzles

MS. LEVY: Yes, yes.

MR. RUSSO: – who came up with the idea of bringing the first Lego set home?

MS. LEVY: It’s my sister. My sister.

MR. RUSSO: Barbara, right?

MS. LEVY: My sister Barbara brought the first Lego set home, and so we became a team.

MR. RUSSO: Was it a plane? It was the plane?

MS. LEVY: It was the plane.

MR. RUSSO: Because that tied right back into his past. So, that was finished, and it was like, okay, what ‘s going to be next?

MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: And he took to it immediately? He saw it and knew immediately what to do?

MS. LEVY: He lived and talked and breathed Lego.

MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: That ‘s wonderful.

MS. LEVY: You know, it was a beautiful thing. It breathed, it really breathed life into him and gave him purpose.

MR. RUSSO: The company needs to hire him for public relations.

MS. LEVY: Yes. MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: Do a commercial. MS. LEVY: Oh, yes. MR. RUSSO: I mean, come on. MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: They might supply him for life.

MS. LEVY: Well, interestingly enough my sister has become, not friends, but connected to the woman who sells them, the manager right here at Roosevelt Field.

MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: Oh, isn’t that something.

MS. LEVY: At the Lego stores.

MR. RUSSO: Well, I’m going to say right now – – –

MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: He ‘s a spokesperson.

MR. RUSSO: – – – right on T.V., that they need to hire Manny Silberman, if they want to promote Lego ‘s right away.

MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: With passion.

MR. RUSSO: With passion.

MS. LEVY: Yes, yes, I agree.

MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: That ‘s wonderful.

MR. RUSSO: Now; dad ‘s been able to stay at home.

MS. LEVY: Yes.

MR. RUSSO: All this time, and so I assume he has help.

MS. LEVY: He does.

MR. RUSSO: And I know that you and your sister are informal caregivers, but he also has formal caregivers in the house?

MS. LEVY: Absolutely.

MR. RUSSO: Yes. Can you tell us about that?

MS. LEVY: Yes. I remember years ago when I visited my parents or I would sit with my mom, and I made a promise to her that I would never put her in a facility. And so when the time came where they needed assistance, I was able to connect with an excellent elder care lawyer who helped me through the process.

MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: Your dad ‘s daily routine. You know, how does he spend his time. Tell us a little bit about his day, about your interaction with him. I can tell, we’ve spoken with you, about how much you love him and it shines from you.

MS. LEVY: Yes.

MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: Tell us a little about him as a person and about your relationship with him. Now, today, as an adult. MS. LEVY: Oh, today?


MS. LEVY: I don’t know that it’s any different from when I was growing up. He ‘s a very wise man. Stable, and he ‘s always been, to me, a voice of reason, even though perhaps I’ve not always agreed, you know –

MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: What? A daughter not agreeing with her father?

MS. LEVY: Of course. But he lives for his daughters. He lived for his wife.

MR. RUSSO: Grandchildren?

MS. LEVY: Yes, he has two grandchildren who are the apples of his eye. I have a nephew Ian, and a niece Andrea and they visit, and everyone participates in trying to keep dad happy.

MR. RUSSO: What ‘s great is that you all live on Long Island so you’re able to do that. In a mobile society today, there are often children who, unfortunately, live hundreds of, if not thousands of miles away, and so this is really wonderful that he’ s surrounded by his two daughters and grandchildren.

MS. LEVY: Oh, absolutely, and we all take turns. We all take turns. There isn’t a day that goes by that one of us isn’t there spending time with him.

MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: Very special.

MS. LEVY: And helping out with the Lego ‘s.

MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: So you all do Lego ‘s now. You ‘re all involved in the – – –

MS. LEVY: Yes, yes absolutely. We ‘re all involved.

MR. RUSSO: Are there more Lego challenges out there?

MS. LEVY: Yes. There has to be. There has to be.

MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: What ‘s been his favorite project so far, that you can

MS. LEVY: The favorite besides the plane – – –

MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: The first one.

MS. LEVY: – – – was probably the Tower Bridge.


MS. LEVY: The Tower Bridge of England, which is unbelievable. He just finished the Australian Opera House, which was a very big project, very. That took a long time, and now I think it’s another, a cargo plane. He’ s finished at least 20-odd projects.

MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: It’s amazing.

MR. RUSSO: Wow . .

MS. LEVY: Yes, there are Lego villages, and planes and trucks and a robot. The Lego robot.

MR. RUSSO: It’s just so wonderful, the love that you obviously have for your dad and to see him doing so well at his age. We can’t thank you enough for being on our show today.

MS. LEVY: Well, thank you for sharing this and giving me the opportunity, so maybe other peopVe will be able to, you know – – –

MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: Enjoy the later years and with a lot of fun.

MS. LEVY: – – – be inspired. MR. RUSSO: Thank you.

MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: Thank you. We ‘re going to take a break, and when we come back, we will get more information on how seniors can successfully stay at home while getting the care that they need. * * * * * * * MR. RUSSO: Welcome back to Family Comes First. We just heard from Lynda Levy talking in such a loving way about her father, Manny Silberman.

MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: And although Manny is well into his nineties, as you saw, he has maintained his independence by living at home, and with more Americans living longer lives, choosing where to live raises a number of complex issues. MR. RUSSO: Joining us now to shed light on this subject is Vicki Ellner, president of Senior Umbrella Network Brooklyn, and Deanna Eble of my law firm. Welcome.

MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: Welcome to you, both.

MS. ELLNER: Thank you.

MS. EBLE: Thank you.

MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: So glad you ‘re here.

MS. ELLNER: Glad to be here, thank you.

MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: So, Vicki, tell us a little bit about your organization, and what services you provide.

MS. ELLNER: Senior Umbrella Network of Brooklyn, if I had to just sum it up, is an advocacy organization that focuses on issues related to keeping seniors safe and focusing on the family and integrating different programs that we have into the community.

MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: And how do you keep an aging loved one engaged when they ‘re at home? That must be such a challenge?

MS. ELLNER: It’s a challenge, but it could be a, what I call, a journey, also; focusing on your loved one in terms of, what keeps them motivated, what keeps them engaged.

MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: So it’s different for everyone based on their personalities?

MS. ELLNER: Yes. And how the families and the outside, whether it’s friends, can interconnect and capture what interests someone and I think that people maintain their integrity through their life ‘s journey, and those are the things, the elements that I think incorporate into keeping somebody at home, happy and motivated.

MR. RUSSO: You know, the happy and motivated part are so important. Deanna, as an elder law attorney, you’re always working with seniors and their families. What steps should seniors be taking to ensure that they can stay at home?

MS. EBLE: The first step they really should take is they should get somebody in the profession involved, like a geriatric care manager, because if they want to stay home they want to make sure that their home accommodates their needs. It could be something as simple as grab bars in the shower, so that they can shower themselves, or you know, a chairlift for the stairs, but you want to have somebody come in who can assess the different apparatus that might help them stay in the home.

MR. RUSSO: Yes, the last thing you want to have is the home become a prison or a barrier to living independently.


MR. RUSSO: And simple little things, just, I just visited my parents in Florida, and the rugs in the apartment can create an issue with tripping.

MS. EBLE: Yes. MR. RUSSO: You know, mom, please take the rug out. You don ‘t need the rug.

MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: It’s hard though. I guess it’s a balance, also between having them do as much as they still can because that must preserve a feeling of independence.

MS. EBLE: Right. And they become dependent sometimes, if you start doing it for them, then they just stop thinking they can do it.

MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: Right, and then they stop doing it.

MS. EBLE: Yes.

MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: So, independence, there’ s legal and planning issues that families need to address, and then there ‘s also what we were talking about, the engagement issues. So, nuts and bolts, what are some of the steps that help seniors live independently, in their minds, in their bodies?

MS. ELLNER: You know it’s a – – – as mentioned, it’s a careful assessment. What’ s realistic? What services can be implemented in the home? What can keep people safe? We always look at what ‘s the safest, most appropriate living option.

MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: How do those assessments take place?

MS. ELLNER: It could be a matter of a checklist, and of course, also if people decide to go it on their own, then do it as a family unit, that ‘s ‘ one aspect. The second is, of course, there are professionals out there that can work with families, and – – –

MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: Do you link families to these professionals, so that they can – – –

MS. ELLNER: Yes, very easily.

MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: Yes, yes. Because it must be hard for a family to watch an aging parent and not really know what to do. I mean, when it happens, you may never have experienced this before.


MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: So if they reach out, they would reach out to you for the planning and the legal steps.

MS. EBLE: Right.

MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: And then to you, for the practical, you know the people who can actually help them live, practically speaking?


MR. RUSSO: I think the practical steps come first.


MR. RUSSO: No one’s rushing out to pick the lawyer first. But there are legal aspects to it, and in Manny ‘s case, and in, probably you can comment on, most seniors, up in their nineties are likely in need of some supportive help, living in their own homes. I mean, it’s just incredible that he’ s there. And, in Manny ‘s case he needs someone there twenty-four, seven, so that creates some coordination issues, and then the legal issue, how to pay for it, so Deanna, how do you pay for that?

MS. EBLE: Some people are under that misconception that sometimes the insurance or Medicare covers it, and when it’s long-term, those two factors are not in play, so when it comes to twenty-four seven care, it’s either privately paying, because you have the income to do so.

MR. RUSSO: And who can afford that?

MS. EBLE: Right. Or supplementing with Medicaid, so it’s getting yourself prepared because Medicaid has asset and income levels that you want to prepare yourself and apply for Medicaid and get that service in to help stretch the money a little.

MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: So, in some ways, this is really a trial and error kind of process for families. Once you have the support lined up financially, I would imagine, Vicki, that sometimes it’s not the best idea to keep someone at home, even though they may very much want to be at home. ” So what are some of the evaluative processes that are the mistakes to avoid when you ‘re thinking about this? How do you know? How do you approach the question, because I imagine it’s painful, but most people want to stay in their homes.

MS. ELLNER: I’m going to say one word relevant to that in terms of mistakes, and I’m going to say the word – sooner. Now, what does that mean? If I could count the times that people have said to me, ”I wish I knew about this service sooner. ” ”I wish I knew that this was available – sooner. ” ”I wish I knew that there was somebody that could help me access into services – sooner. ” That would be the biggest thing that I would say is that you have to look at these things in terms of pre­ planning and once again, I’ve heard the words, and people have said, ”I wish I knew about you sooner. ”

MR. RUSSO: The problem is that the children don ‘t know how to have the conversation with their parents. So their parents are doing what they believe is best for them, and they want their independence, and so they feel like they can go it without help often and the children do not know how to have the conversation. How do you help them in that situation?

MS. ELLNER: There ‘s definitely a conflict, or you know, a separation relevant to that, the greater generation, talking to your baby boomers basically and then as you go down, your gen X’ers, and different philosophies, and you are – the greatest generation, grew up in a different time, different challenges, different rewards, but if you need to do it yourself you need to engage somebody in the process. There are ways to access into that, and if – – – we call it, in health care we call it a therapeutic white lie, you know, ”I’m having a friend come over I’d like you to meet.’ ‘ And you sit down and you can actually start a process like that.

MR. RUSSO: Right, well that’ s very, very helpful, because I think there ‘s that barrier that has to be overcome in terms of how to have the conversation with mom or dad and make sure that we’re all being respectful at the same time to our parents.

MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: And it’s really two steps. It’s the kids getting themselves educated first, and then having the conversation as it’s relevant with the parents.

MR. RUSSO: Yes. Deanna, just quickly because we ‘re running out of time, I can’t believe it, what should seniors be doing in advance? Do you have a checklist of steps they might want to take?

MS. EBLE: They should, like Vicki said, this ”sooner” aspect comes into play, so they should make sure sooner than later, that they ‘re doing their Power of Attorney, Health Care Proxy and Living Will because those are the things that are going to give the family the opportunity to help them if they need it, and they really should be doing some type of planning because there is this five-year world if a nursing home is needed, and the sooner you start that five-years clock ticking, the better off you’ll be. You ‘ll be able to stretch your money further and have – protect more so that your kids have it to use it if they need to help you.

MR. RUSSO: So, the message at the end here is, everyone should be acting sooner and being realistic about life, because it’s not going to happen to me, it only happens to someone else. I want to thank the two of you for sharing your insights and experience that you have working with seniors and their families.


MS. ELLNER: Thank you.

MS. EBLE: Thank you.

MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: Thank you so much for being here. And now we turn to Father Tony Stanganelli for a spiritual reflection.

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FR. STANGANELLI: We’ve all heard that we are made in the image and likeness of God. Right from the very book of Genesis, we read that God said, ”Let us make man in our image, ” and so in the divine image, he created Him, male and female he created them. I believe that being in the divine image is more than the fact that we as human beings are intelligent and have free will, of course, having intelligence and free will, does make us higher than the animals and the rest of creation, but our real image of God is in us because of our creativity. A creativity that is a power not meant to be exercised solo, but in Communion, in community, and so God made the male and female and said be fruitful and multiply. Fill the Earth and conquer it. Creativity. That’ s where the image of God within us resides, and our ability to create with other. Seeing this beautiful story, this inspiring story of Manny Silberman, Manny shows us that no matter how old we are, that spark of divinity still resides within us because of our ability to create. Certainly, we heard about how Manny met his wife in Mitchell Field and they, together, have created a family, obviously, and then his creativity was also able to be a mechanic on planes during the Second World War at Mitchell Field. But now even when all of our other capacities seem to be taken away from us, creativity is still there as the spark of the divine, and there he is creating in his own room his Lego ‘s. But his Lego legacy is more than just the models he ‘s made. I believe it’s the beautiful experience he shares with his family who help him to create this together. Creativity is not a solo experience, but something we inspire within each other as his family inspires him to coritinue to create and continue to find joy in what he has made. * * * * * * * MR. RUSSO: Manny is a great example of how seniors can live longer, stay at home and still have a fantastic quality of life.

MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: He was joyful and inspiring.

MR. RUSSO: Yes, he was.

MS. ROBERTS-DROGIN: As was Lynda. Everyone should hope to age as well as Manny. For a list of resources and legal service for elder care issues for families, please visit Vincent ‘s law firm at

MR. RUSSO: Thank you. And thanks to all our viewers for joining us and remember, family truly does come first.

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