To the Editor:
In “Jewish communities grapple with baby boomer retirement boom,” Neil Rubin asks whether Jewish communities are prepared to meet the needs of hundreds of thousands of seniors. It is a recognized fact that communities across America are not prepared for the country’s expanding older adult population. With the Jewish population growing at a significantly faster rate than the national average, Rubin’s inquiry is timely.
The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) has been at the forefront of this challenge and launched the National NORCs Aging in Place Initiative more than a decade ago to help bring this issue to the fore. The initiative made way for Congress’ establishment of another JFNA initiative, the broader Community Innovations for Aging in Place (CIAIP) program.
CIAIP, hugely popular throughout the Aging Services Network, was intended to become a central clearinghouse for best practices and opportunities to advance aging in place programs across the nation. Unfortunately, the transition to this program (2009-11) occurred in the middle of the worst economic downturn in modern times, coupled with the fiscal pressures of a ballooning federal budget deficit. After only three years, Congress and the administration placed the brakes on CIAIP — a victim of budget cuts and retrenchment.
To put a face on it, the NORC programs under JFNA’s initiative primarily helped women living alone, aged 75 and over, who were poor or economically insecure. With baby boomers retiring at a rate of 10,000 per day, the vast majority of whom will age in place primarily by choice, Jewish communities must galvanize to ensure that federal programs and services such as CIAIP are strengthened, not cut, to ensure that our communities are prepared for the healthy and secure aging of our boomer population. Pursuing these goals remains a top priority of Jewish federations.
Senior Director, Legislative Affairs
The Jewish Federations of North America