Jewish Elderly Hold First Conference on Problems of Aged

Jewish senior citizens held their first national conference here this week to discuss the multitude of problems affecting the elderly, and specifically the Jewish aged, and how they might be solved.

The National Conference of Jewish Community Senior Advocacy Groups convened June 24-25. Its cosponsors included the Jewish Association for Services for the Aged (JASA) of New York; its subsidiary, the Joint Public Affairs Committee (JPAC) for Older Adults; the Council of Jewish Federations; the Jewish Welfare Board; and the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York. All maintain or finance programs for the aged.

Sam Sadin, who chaired the conference, noted that it represented “the first attempt by Jewish community groups throughout the country to meet together on issues concerning the elderly.” He urged Jewish groups nationwide to devote more of their resources to services for the aged, pointing out that Jews have a higher percentage of elderly than any other ethnic group in the country.

Nevertheless, there are “major Jewish communities that do not have aging services,” he said. He added that private philanthropy can meet social needs only in partnership with the government.

The delegates, representing 19 Jewish-sponsored senior citizen programs in 11 states focussed on the problem of health care in the U.S. Eric Shulman of the National Council of Senior Citizens told a workshop session that health care costs have increased 1,000 percent in the past 20 years. He criticized recent legislation calling for higher Medicare premiums. They “blame the beneficiary” and built inflation into the system, he said.

Jack Christy of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) said the solution lies in limiting those costs and restructuring the system. Dr. Arthur Flemming, former Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, said “We can’t move forward on any health issue unless we tackle the issue of cost containment.”

Participants in the conference proposed at its close the formation of an on-going steering committee to serve as a clearing house for information about legislative issues and methods of social action that will serve Jewish senior citizen advocacy groups.

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