Aging of Jewish Population in Israel, World to Pose New Problems in Near Future

The aging of the Jewish population in Israel and throughout the world will pose new problems of care for the elderly in the not too distant future, a Hebrew University professor and an American gerentologist said at a press conference here.

According to U.O. Schmelz, professor of contemporary Jewry, “the proportion of diaspora Jews over the age of 65 will increase by five percent to 20 percent of the total population by the year 2000. In Israel, the number of Jews aged 65 or over will increase from 258,000 in 1975 to 456,000 by the end of the century,” he said.

Schmelz’s statistics came from a recent joint study by the JDC-Brookdale Institute of Gerentology in the U.S. and the Hebrew University’s Institute of Contemporary Jewry. It deals with “regional estimates of Jewish populations throughout the world and their elderly components.”

Dr. Jack Habib, head of the Brookdale Institute, said obtaining funds from the government for the elderly is not the problem. It is rather, where to allocate the funds that seems to be causing difficulties, he said. “The direction that the government is going in now is not clear.” He added that “There hasn’t been a resolution of the relative emphasis to be placed on institutional solutions vs. community solutions, nor has there been any resolution with regard to the organization of care. We do not know what direction that is going in and it is still very controversial,” Habib said.

Akiva Lewinsky, the Jewish Agency Treasurer, said there are hundreds of immigrant families who cannot leave absorption centers because even with maximum mortgate assistance they cannot buy apartments.” He said “among those affected are elderly people.”

NEXT STORY