We have all seen the startling statistics about the aging of America and how it will affect every aspect of our society, from social and economic policy to the effects on individual family caregivers. This demographic issue is particularly relevant to the Jewish community, which is aging more rapidly than the population at large. Fortunately for those living in northern and central New Jersey, the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ and its affiliate agencies are dedicated to the aging population and its growing needs. Greater MetroWest truly encompasses the Jewish value of respecting the elderly. Community members are often amazed at the richness of resources available to older adults, with programs ranging from recreation to housing to home care to counseling to nutrition to spiritual care and services for mature adults with special needs?
The federation articulated its commitment to older adults by establishing MetroWest CARES — the Committee Addressing Resources for Seniors — and creating the position of director of eldercare services in 2004. The committee includes professionals and lay leaders from the agencies serving older adults and is proof that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Over the past eight years CARES has been instrumental in guiding the development of three federally-funded aging-in-place programs (called LIVE) in Parsippany, Caldwell, and Verona, and has developed programs and services in response to emerging needs throughout Greater MetroWest. Most recently, CARES addressed the following areas of concern for older adults and their families.
• Health and Wellness: CARES implemented Take Control of Your Health, an innovative state-funded program for individuals suffering from chronic diseases.
• Transportation: With funding from the Jewish Community Foundation, CARES launched MetroWest Mobility. This program aims to increase mobility for seniors through workshops, transit outings, and visits to neighborhood locations.
• Home Safety: in collaboration with JVS Home Maintenance Solutions, JCC, JFS, and JCHC staff identified frail elders who required maintenance visits and received grant-funded safety interventions.
CARES continued to be a resource for families of seniors in the community needing to access services. As we move forward in 2013 under the banner of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ, CARES will continue to address these issues while working on new projects. The historic MetroWest and Central agencies have come together and have started discussing how to work collaboratively to further enhance services to seniors in our community. This year also sees new leadership as Sharon Seiden begins her tenure as committee chair, working closely me as the director of Eldercare Services.
The committee is working tirelessly to strengthen the network serving older adults while delivering services to the community. Take Control of Your Health (which is being funded by a new grant from the New Jersey Department of Human Services and the United Way) is being rolled out this month in Verona and workshops will be held throughout the community in the coming months. A West Orange On the Go program is being developed and will be launched this spring. Community programs for family caregivers are also being planned. Of particular interest will be the issue of reaching baby boomers. By all indications, this cohort approaches life in general, and aging in particular, differently than their parents. By engaging boomers in the conversation, CARES can begin to address their current needs while preparing for the future.
MetroWest CARES, the Committee Addressing Resources for Seniors, is coordinated by the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest, and brings together leaders from Greater MetroWest agencies to promote independence and support vitality among older adults. Each month, a MetroWest CARES agency has an opportunity to address a critical eldercare issue. This month’s column on MetroWest CARES is presented by the federation.