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Aging in Community: A Recipe for Success

Amy Schectman, President and CEO

Posted: March 28, 2016

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We often use the phrase “aging in community” to express JCHE’s core philosophy for successful aging. Since it’s such a central cornerstone of our identity and our mission, I thought I would explain what it means to us.

We define aging in community as living a full life of connection and purpose in a dynamic, supportive environment. For older adults, where you live can determine how much or how little you can engage in community life—and connection is so much better than isolation for everyone.

In our society, we all place a very high value on independence. Unfortunately, this often translates into people believing that “aging in place” (i.e., remaining in one’s private home as long as possible) is a way to maintain that independence, when in fact all the evidence shows that it’s the exact opposite. Living in a supportive community with opportunities for meaningful interactions with others is what maintains independence. Aging in place, for far too many older adults, means aging alone.

As we age, our ability to go places and mingle with others—especially in the dead of winter in New England—becomes limited. Yet the aging in place ideal, coupled with a broad societal shift away from multi-generational shared living spaces, has left many seniors without life-enriching regular companionship.

In fact, there is quite a consensus amongst the experts that the biggest public health threat our elders face today is chronic loneliness. Chronic loneliness is obviously an unhappy state, but it also is a serious health risk factor affecting blood pressure, immune system functioning, rate of memory loss, and ability to perform activities of daily living. And because of this, it can lead to premature institutionalization.

Community is the antidote to the bitter loneliness that often accompanies an unsupported aging process. That’s why we’ve built communities where elders can live independently and connectedly. Residents can take advantage of engaging programs that promote companionship, wellness and intellectual stimulation. And when you need a hand with chores of daily living to maintain that independence, we can get you support services so your focus can remain on the opportunities for lifelong learning and social engagement.

While the statistics are impressive and bear out our belief in the value of aging in community, I’m mostly passionate about it because I see it in action at JCHE and I witness how it enriches and sustains the lives of our precious elders every day. Our residents love living at JCHE not just because of the quality of our buildings, but also because of the caring communities that surround their apartment. We hear it all the time. They describe it as “heaven,” “a miracle,” and “the best place on earth.” It’s so rewarding to hear our own residents embrace their lives at JCHE and value the things we work hard to ensure.

What makes JCHE’s aging in community model especially unique is that we accomplish it with a laser sharp focus on affordability. The vast majority of our residents are low-income. It is easier to provide high-end services to a high-income population who can pay for them. It’s quite another case with a low-to-moderate income population. Through a combination of government subsidies and private philanthropy, JCHE can stand out in the depth of our supports and the richness of daily life.

Our aging in community approach boils down to a simple recipe, although it’s extremely complex to execute:

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Please help us spread this recipe and this message beyond our community so that every older adult has the opportunity for a full life of connection and purpose in a dynamic, supportive environment.

 

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Comment by Jonathan Small | 04/12/2016

This is a very important piece, Amy. Thanks for posting it.