Driven by a commitment to honor elders, a population aging faster than the general U.S. population and seniors who stay healthy and active longer than previous generations, the Jewish community is exploring new ways to serve seniors.
Seniors today are living longer, more active lives than earlier generations, notes Cedar Sinai Park CEO David Fuks: “Today’s 75-year-olds are thinking about vacations, who to play tennis with and how they can participate in their community.”
“We will continue to develop our (CSP) campus and other housing options to meet the needs of those with chronic disease and dementia or people who require temporary care after a medical incident,” said Fuks. “But we recognize the desire for any elder to live at home as long as possible. How can we help elders reach that goal?”
With funding from the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland, CSP has taken the lead to plan a future to help seniors live the lives they want. CSP, Jewish Family and Child Service, Sinai Family Home Services and Mittleman Jewish Community Center have created potential service options that they will present to 15 focus groups this year. The goal is to find out what seniors, their families and aging baby boomers want the community to offer in the future.
“Our hope is not simply to offer home health care options, but also to help seniors stay socially connected to the Jewish community,” says Fuks. “The MJCC is the living room of the community so they have been a big part of the conversation.”
MJCC Executive Director Lisa Horowitz believes the key to serving elders effectively will be listening to what elders have to say about their own wishes, dreams and desires.
“The key focus for the MJCC has been in exploring ways that we can support our community’s elders through social, arts and cultural activities as well as fitness and health,” she says. “The MJCC is a unique community resource that offers such a wide range of programs and possibilities. Serving our elders is an important part of our community commitment and one that deserves our attention.”
Horowitz hopes the focus groups will provide the agencies with concrete ideas to help form a roadmap to forward motion.
JFCS Executive Director Marian Fenimore envisions a Jewish shtetl based on the nationwide trend to create cooperative communities for people ages 50 and up (see “Village” story).
“I hope we are able to put together a menu of services. Seniors want to stay in their homes and be independent, but they know they will need access to services over time,” she says.
Initially seniors might just turn to the shtetl for social events and referrals to trusted vendors who provide home repair, dog walking, tax preparation or other services. As they age, seniors might need to access housecleaning, shopping help, transportation and home health care.
“Thinking about the needs folks have at different times, we’ve created a menu,” explains Fenimore. “The different focus groups will tell us what they think of the service options.”
JFCS already offers counseling to help people solve individual concerns, bereavement support, transportation, shopping, socialization programs and in-home help for seniors. JFCS Mensches in the Trenches corps of volunteers help seniors with tasks such as home and yard work, paperwork and shopping.
Advances in technology are another area the planners want to take advantage of to help keep seniors safely at home. Technology can be used to remind seniors to take their medication on schedule and to provide a range of safety-related support through video cameras, Skyping and embedded technology.
“We (CSP, JFCS, SFHS and MJCC) have the talent and skills to do all this,” says Fenimore. “We can provide wraparound services that care for the whole person – their physical, emotional, social and medical needs.”
To make these dreams come true, elders and their family members are needed to participate in Conversations with the Community in late May and early June. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 503-535-4393.
seniors age at home
Two former Jewish communal workers, who now have their own company, have launched a pro bono project to help people interested in creating local villages.
Chana and Richie Andler left their jobs at Jewish Family and Child Service and Oregon Jewish Museum, respectively, to create Andler Resource Group. When they heard about the village movement, the two baby boomers thought it was just what they wanted for themselves to be able to remain in their own home as they age. To bring the national movement to Oregon, the duo launched villagepdx.org.
“Most of the villages are grassroots things,” says Chana. “People who are in an area and want to age in place come together and form a board for a 501(c)3 and then form a membership organization. People in the area can join the membership organization.”
Services and programs offered by villages vary but often include fitness programs, political groups, social activities, transportation and “vendor vetting” – a list of screened plumbers, electricians, home care workers and other professionals who are safe to have in your home and who often provide discounted rates due to economies of scale. Perhaps most important, the villages create a social network of people who help, and check up on, each other.
“People who are interested in being founders tend to be younger (usually 50 plus) and join to create an organization that will be there when they need it,” says Chana.
Launched last October, the website offers support, ideas and resources for people who want to explore village life. A series of parlor meetings over the next few months will share materials and resources and help people find others in their neighborhoods who want to create a village. For more information, email email@example.com.
The most recent National Jewish Population Survey in 2000 revealed that the Jewish population is aging – and doing so faster than the general population. The percentage of adults 65 and older in the Jewish population was 19% compared to 12% in the total U.S. population.