Committed To Becoming More Age-Friendly
As the largest city in Israel, Jerusalem is preparing for the dramatic increase in its aging population; it is estimated that by 2020-2025 the number of older people, currently 72000, will increase by 20%. Jerusalem’s older population is diverse, with Jewish new immigrants, Muslims, Christians and senior tourists.
Our policy vision is to consider healthy, active and engaged older people to be assets in the development of the city and in creating a more sustainable society. This vision aims to create “Age-friendly Jerusalem” to better integrate older people in the city’s services and landscape. Between 2013-2014, we and the Israeli Ministry of Senior Citizens partnered to design a master-plan which we started to implement in March 2015.
The master-plan provided four mechanisms for promoting ageing in place:
1. Affordable activities and subsidized services must work in collaboration with HMO’s and private-public partnerships.
2. Accessibility of activities, services, information, transportation and physical conditions to all the different socio-cultural groups.
3. Inter-generational activities to accommodate both young and old residents to promote a sustainable and resilient society for all ages.
4. Inter-organizational activities: a collaborative approach which involves senior community members with all the relevant stakeholders.
This resilience-based perspective aims to prevent ageism by considering older people as an asset, valuing their contribution to society. Two municipal divisions provide services for older people according to the four mechanisms outlined above:
- The Social Services Division for the Aged – This division provides counseling, support and placement in 15 nursing homes, respite care, homecare and subsidized services, an Information center that advocates rights, services for holocaust survivors, 19 neighborhood supportive communities which allow seniors to continue living independently in their own homes while addressing their specific needs (2 in East Jerusalem, 3 in the ultra-religious Jewish neighborhoods), an employment center for residents aged 60 and over to provide job training workshops and technologies skills workshops. (This service is located in community center at the junction between East and West Jerusalem).
- The Social and Culture Division for the Aged provides 56 social clubs and hubs for older people across the different neighborhoods. Among its services is a Music and Dance school that offers subsidized lessons for older adults, a Time Bank, and health volunteers.
Both divisions are coordinating the Senior Citizens Council that was established five years ago, composed of the major unions’ retiree’s organizations.
During the process of designing the master-plan we engaged and involved older people using mix-methodology, such as survey, focus groups and round tables to engage older adults about their daily lives and use their ideas and suggestions to shape positive change:
- In-depth open-ended interviews: with community leaders and the municipality workers (using snowball method). Interviewees were first asked to respond to two open-ended questions, including: how to define an age-friendly community and what are the most important characteristics in a community that would be considered age-friendly.
- A telephone survey: a sample of 600 residents aged 55 and older in two languages: Arabic and Hebrew – were recruited to participate in a telephone survey. The survey data was divided into three groups: Jewish residents, Arab residents and Jewish Ultra-Orthodox residents. The closed-question survey referred to all four themes outlined above.
- Public participation conferences: Jerusalem residents age 55 and above were invited to attend three public forums where they had the opportunity to engage in round tables to discuss and suggest how to improve Jerusalem’s age-friendliness. Participants from two of the forums were primarily Jewish senior citizens from mid-low income and new-immigrants from Russia. The third forum was attended by Jewish Ultra-Orthodox women. Each of the forums comprised 10 tables with discussion leader that lead the group discussion. Each forum was attended by approximately 100 participants aged 55 and older. Participants were first asked to join a round table discussion from one of the four themes. They were then asked to characterize their specific needs and desires with regard to the themes and then to rank these characteristics in an effort to develop a concise set of community priorities.
- Focus groups: in addition, we conducted three targeted focus groups were held with special ethnic groups that did not participate in the larger community forums, including, Arab women in East Jerusalem, Jewish-Ethiopian senior citizens, Jewish English-speaking immigrant. The same methodology was used in these groups as was used in the larger community forum roundtable discussion.
In the implementation stage we involve the senior citizen council as public representatives in the community advisory board. We learned from the mixed-methodology how to include all the different socio-cultural groups and languages within the different neighbourhoods focusing on available information, transportation and the physical environment. We did this by tailoring specific recommendations for each cultural group. For example, a bottom-up model was recommended for promoting programs in East Jerusalem. This model empowers the residents to develop initiatives. As for the Jewish ultra-orthodox groups it was recommended to top- bottom, first work with the rabbinic leadership in order to embrace any social change.
1. Senior Citizen Tourism project focuses on the intersection between employment, community and recreation. Expected outcomes are to develop employment/volunteer opportunities for older people, and to enable social participation of both older locals and older tourists in recreational activities.
2. Housing –to enable strategies for aging in place because affordable and available housing is one of the main concerns for older people. After mapping the private and public nursing homes and shelters available and the preferences of each group, we are initiating a call for city designers to offer models for innovative community and inter-generational housing.