Supportive Communities offer respectable alternative for the elderly

The program aims to reduce the need for the elderly to move to special housing and to instead receive services directly at their homes.

Elderly ping pong_311 (photo credit: Reuters)
Elderly ping pong_311
(photo credit: Reuters)
Nearly half of Israelis taking care of their elderly parents said they would not consider an institutional framework for housing their parents, even if they knew it provided a better response to their parents’ needs, according to a survey released by the Israel Joint Distribution Committee–ESHEL.
The survey was released ahead of a conference on Wednesday in Kibbutz Shefayim, which discussed the “challenges and dilemmas facing supportive communities for the next generation,” with the participation of Senior Citizens Minister Uri Orbach; Miriam Bar Giora, director of the Service for the Elderly at the Welfare and Social Services Ministry; and Yossi Heiman, director-general of Joint Israel–ESHEL.
According to the report, some 800,000 family members provide care for their elderly parents, while only a third of respondents said they would be willing to consider placing their parents in an institutional framework for the elderly.
The findings also indicated that around one in five adults were worried for their parents’ welfare, while 70 percent of respondents said they did not invest any financial resources in taking care of their elderly parents.
The survey was conducted in June 2014 by the Market Watch research institute among 412 respondents aged 40 to 60 who take care of their elderly parents and reflected a +/- 4.9% margin of error.
“According to the statistics, 97% of the elderly population in Israel is currently aging within the community, and this is a trend that has stabilized over the years,” said Heiman.
“In light of the situation, JDC Israel-ESHEL has opened in the past, together with the Welfare and Social Services Ministry and local authorities, a supportive community model, a service that allows aging in the community in a proper and respectable fashion,” he said.
A supportive community program is a package of services provided to elderly people who continue to live and age at home. The program aims to reduce the need for the elderly to move to special housing and institutional frameworks and allows them to receive services directly to their homes.
Each supportive community program includes some 200 households living in a defined geographical area. To date there are some 260 supportive communities operating in 38,000 households serving some 50,000 elderly. Among these, 54% live under the poverty line, 19% are disabled and 67% live alone.
According to Heiman, the supportive community program offers a low-cost alternative to the currently operating institutional frameworks.
The infrastructure cost for one daycare center unit for the elderly costs some $20,000 compared to $170 for the cost of one supportive community infrastructure. Furthermore, the cost of operations per day vastly differs – some $30 per day for daycare centers to $0.80 per day for supportive communities.
The basket of services provided to the elderly in supportive communities consists of a neighborhood mother or father, a paid staffer who is available around the clock to provide assistance to the members in the program. This caring figure provides assistance ranging from performing minor home repairs to accompanying the elderly to the hospital.
Every member also receives a two-way communication system and portable remote control button in case of emergency. In addition, members receive free ambulatory services as well as doctors’ visits around the clock for a nominal fee. The community members also enjoy regularly scheduled social meetings, lectures and field trips.
“If today people aged 65+ comprise 10% of the population, in two decades they are expected to comprise around 14% of the population. This is a very significant increase which requires the preparation of the frameworks today,” Heiman said.