How will we meet the needs of older adults in Jewish Cincinnati now and in the future? That is the “big question” being asked by the Aging 2.0 Task Force, made up of professional and volunteer leaders from all the local Jewish agencies that serve older adults in the Jewish community of Cincinnati.
The task force was convened by the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati in March, as the Cedar Village Board of Trustees considered a potential sale of Cedar Village. The strategic planning group is tasked with understanding and adapting cutting-edge approaches to the changing needs of older adults.
“We don’t want to develop a strategy just for today—but also for where things are going over the next decade or two.”
“Both the healthcare industry and how older adults want to live have been changing at an accelerating rate,” said Jewish Federation CEO Shep Englander. “The whole world that existed when Cedar Village was planned 21 years ago is radically different today. The percentage of older adults who use skilled nursing is dropping, and will continue to drop, both because it’s enormously expensive, and because the generations that are aging now almost universally prefer to stay in their homes or with their families.”
Not only will the needs and desires of older adults continue to be more diverse than ever before, but there will be a surge in the number of them. According to the World Health Organization, Ohio currently has 1.9 million individuals who are age 65 and older (13.6%). However, in 2040, Ohio’s projected 2.8 million older people will comprise 24% of the state’s population, and three in ten Ohioans will be age 60 and older.
Planning for the needs of Jewish Cincinnati’s seniors came well before Aging 2.0. Convened by The Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati four years ago, the Senior Services Working Group included the senior professionals of the agencies that serve older adults in order to learn about each other’s services, establish a strategic planning process for aging services in the Cincinnati Jewish community, and identify “early win” opportunities for collaboration.
One of the early achievements of the working group was launching AgeWell Cincinnati in October 2017, which links older adults, their family members, friends, and caregivers to community resources for aging well in Jewish Cincinnati. In just six months, AgeWell Cincinnati has helped 223 clients find the services they need to enhance their independence and help them live healthy and enjoyable lives.
“The Senior Services Working Group focused on the excellent aging services being provided by our agencies, and how we could better connect those agencies and services to benefit more older adults in our community,” said Brian Jaffee, Executive Director of The Jewish Foundation. “In addition, we began to learn more about the impending ‘Age Wave’ in which more members of our community will be living longer and requiring different kinds of services than we have been providing to date. Aging 2.0 is the logical next phase of this collaborative work.”
The task force includes representatives from Jewish Family Service, the Jewish Home of Cincinnati, Mayerson JCC, JVS Career Services, The Jewish Foundation, and the Jewish Federation. It is made up of the chief professionals as well as board presidents of each agency.
The Jewish Home of Cincinnati is the organization that has owned Cedar Village since its opening; after the sale in early June, it will continue to support Jewish mission-related priorities, e.g. kosher food and Jewish religious and cultural programming at Cedar Village.
In addition, the task force includes several experts in senior services.
“By working with older adults in our community every day through AgeWell Cincinnati and Jewish Family Service, my team has gained valuable insights into their needs and wants as they age, and I hope to bring those to the group,” said Ann Sutton Burke, Director of Aging and Caregiver Services at Jewish Family Service.
Arlene Herman, retired CEO of LifePoint Solutions (formerly Family Service), is facilitating. Herman also served as Interim Executive Director of Executive Service Corps, which provides strategic consulting to nonprofits.
“Arlene built one of the largest and most successful social service agencies in our region over several decades,” Englander said. “She has organizing and strategic planning experience and is deeply involved in our community.”
Tackling that ‘Big Question’
The Aging 2.0 Task Force began by crafting a central question, which drives its mission: How will we meet the needs of our older adults (now and in the future) in areas that aren’t being met by the private market, either because people don’t have the means to pay for the services or because there isn’t a critical mass of people to pay for them or because there is a limit of available resources in the community?
Then they began to tackle the question by laying out four impact areas to be addressed:
- aging in place with dignity and support services,
- housing options for Jewish seniors,
- Alzheimer’s/dementia care, including caregiver support, and
- meeting the Jewish cultural and religious needs (including kosher food) of otherwise underserved older adults.
They are now forming work groups and advisory groups for each of the impact areas, which will include professionals, board members, experts, and invited community members.
In the next few months, the Aging 2.0 Task Force will create a plan for the fourth impact area, Jewish cultural and religious needs.
“This is a top priority because if someone’s level of observance requires kosher food, and they’re living in a retirement facility, they have no other option than what is available there,” said Barb Miller, Federation’s Director of Community Building. “The group will first work to support Cedar Village’s efforts, both current and new owners, to make sure their residents who want kosher food will continue to get high-quality, fresh kosher food without any interruption or additional cost.”
Once kosher food and religious needs are in place at Cedar Village, the task force will develop and spur opportunities for Jewish connection, culture, and programming for older adults who live outside of Cedar Village.
“The other impact areas will take more time to address,” Herman said. “We will determine what research we need, bring in cutting-edge national experts, and do site visits to other communities, in order to come back with our recommendations for solutions for now and in the future. We don’t want to develop a strategy just for today—but also for where things are going over the next decade or two.”