Health care reform is proving to be one of the most deeply divisive issues Congress has tackled in a long time. As a non-profit, non-partisan organization, the last thing we wanted to do was get in the middle of an increasingly partisan battle. But as an organization dedicated to the healthy aging of our nation’s seniors, we have no choice but to speak out on behalf of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, because of the good things in the law passed last March that will help all Americans age safely and healthily.
NEW ORLEANS, La. (JTA) -- As America’s 77 million baby boomers retire, they will place an unprecedented burden on the Jewish community’s infrastructure.
They will need more services, and many will want to become involved in a community that isn't making room for them.
The federation system in particular needs to meet the challenge -- and now, as the oldest boomers turn 65 next year -- or face losing the wealthiest and most highly educated generation in American Jewish history.
When Anna, a 93-year-old Holocaust survivor who lives alone in the Bronx despite numerous health problems, couldn’t leave the house one recent afternoon, she dialed the number she knew best in hopes of getting a hot, kosher meal delivered.
Ethel Berman, 82, walks with a cane and her vision is so poor she needs help placing her hand on the spot where she is supposed to sign a check.
But Berman is proud to be living at the Warbasse apartments in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, where she not only takes care of herself but volunteers to organize programs to benefit other residents of the heavily senior-citizen complex at the corner of Ocean Parkway and Neptune Avenue.
"This is the closest thing to being independent," said Berman, who has been living at Warbasse since it was built in the early 1960s.
A pending change in the delivery of meals to thousands of homebound seniors in the Bronx won’t affect the supply of kosher fare, says the commissioner for the Department for the Aging.
“There will be no interruption in service,” Commissioner Edwin Mendez-Santiago told The Jewish Week Tuesday. “Every single senior who requests a kosher meal will continue to get one.”
Joyce Silver smiled broadly as her companion, Jess Koch of Manhattan, joked with an elderly woman making puppets at Lifeline for the Old in Jerusalem.
“This is what we need in our country,” said Silver. “We have to make these people feel wanted; it makes their eyes sparkle.”
Minutes later, the elderly woman motioned for Silver to sit beside her. Although they did not share a common language, the two women were quickly laughing and embracing.
It’s still under the communal radar screens, but elder abuse is a growing problem in the Jewish community, according to agencies that deal with the elderly. And it’s likely to become more acute with the graying of the Jewish population.
A bill introduced in the Senate this week is intended to take elder abuse out of the closet, and Jewish social service providers couldn’t be happier.
In the last six months, Temple Emanuel of Long Beach, L.I., opened its doors for a social adult day-care program for seniors with dementia. Seven seniors attend twice a week and the synagogue's spiritual leader, Rabbi Bennett Herman, described it as "probably the best example of group work activity I've ever seen."
While Marjorie Rosenthal was caring for her elderly mother, who suffered from Alzheimer's disease during the last seven years of her life, she realized how difficult it would be had she not been able to afford a home-care attendant.
"People are living longer and longer and our bodies break down at some point," she said. "There aren't a lot of places you would want to put a relative with Alzheimer's, and itís a very difficult job caring for the person by yourself at home."
Bernice Myones of Seaford glowed as she watched her mother sing, clap and sway to the music as she and nearly 100 other residents of the Gurwin Jewish Geriatric Center in Commack helped celebrate her 108th birthday. Asked the secret of her mother's longevity, Myones, 71, chuckled.
"I wish I knew," she said. "I'd bottle it and sell it."
Her mother, Ann Kierstein, seated in a wheelchair and alert, offered no insight herself.
"You live naturally," she said.