The Talks

My 77-year old father is currently visiting from Orlando, Florida – he, of course, is focused on spending time with his grandchildren. While here, I had the opportunity to have “the talk” with him. No, not “that talk” – the one we supposedly had when I was an adolescent. Instead, this talk was about him, and how my sister (who lives in Chicago) and I can assist him as he ages. Being far away certainly does not help, yet thinking through these issues now will certainly make it easier when he needs greater support.

I had no idea where to start the conversation. Just thinking out loud…my mother passed away several years ago, he lives alone (well, with his dog who truly is a life-saver for him) in a small condominium, and he is not in the best of health. There are family members in Orlando, yet is it their responsibility to take care of him? All I know is that he wants to stay in his home for as long as possible. Yet, what services may he need in the future? What is offered in Orlando in the Jewish community? How does he (or we) access them? And what about the cost?

This conversation could not have been more timely. As you may recall, one of our Community Impact Grants was provided to Cedar Sinai Park to develop a comprehensive system of care for seniors in their own homes. Working with a local consultant, Cedar Sinai Park, in partnership with Jewish Family and Child Service, Mittleman Jewish Community Center, Sinai Family Home Services and the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland, is developing in-home services that cater to the specific needs of our Jewish elders and family members who serve as caregivers. To do this, Cedar Sinai Park is planning a series of conversations with the community. These focus group discussions will help identify services that might help elders stay in their homes for longer and live fuller, more meaningful lives. 

These “talks” will consist of separate groups for well elders, seniors suffering from chronic or progressive illnesses, those recuperating from such illnesses, elders with memory problems, and family-member caregivers. The focus group discussions will occur in late May and early June. Each community conversation will last 90 minutes. 

Please help identify Jewish seniors or family members who may fit any of the above descriptions – or perhaps sign up yourself. The participation in these community discussions will help shape the future of Jewish aging services and create client-centered in-home services for Greater Portland. I only wish Orlando’s Jewish community was as forward thinking.

Interested seniors and family members may email or call Barbara Taylor at 503-535-4393 to join the effort to improve Jewish aging services. Please click here for more details.

The other important “talk” was with members of the eastside Jewish community. A separate Community Impact Grant funded project was for a market study of the Eastside Jewish Community. Federation, in conjunction with multiple Jewish organizations, worked with DHM Research to develop an appropriate survey tool. We had 573 people respond (not all from the eastside) and provide us with their insights in regard to their interests and desires for Jewish connections, programs, and services.

Here is a small sample of what we heard:

  • 75% of respondents identified themselves as culturally Jewish

  •  Nine out of ten said it was important to be involved in Portland’s Jewish community, but only 1/3 said they were involved

  • Distance from Jewish institutions and lack of time were the two top-cited reasons for not being more involved

  • The most valued programs to expand on the eastside are Jewish holiday and event celebrations and Jewish social action projects

  • Over 80% of the respondents said it was important to have physical space on Portland’s eastside to serve the Jewish community. The greatest interest was in multipurpose space for social, educational and religious activities.

  • Age of respondents and the length of time living on the eastside made a difference in their reported needs and connectedness.

Please click here to see the full study.

These two CIG funded projects are key examples of what the process intended to accomplish. We are often solely focused on the wonderful and important current daily workings of our communal organizations. These two projects are focused on our community’s future – today.

By “talking” we will soon better understand how to best serve and maintain seniors in their own homes. This will ultimately save valuable community resources and provide enhanced care for seniors and their caregivers. At the same time, everyone has their own idea of what the eastside Jewish community wants or needs – however, we never directly asked. Well, now we have.

I am proud that our Community Impact Grant programs – investments in our future – are providing us with data and clear direction to make the difference in Jewish Portland for the long-term. The challenge now – making it all a reality.

Shabbat shalom and happy Mother's Day.


PS -- Now, please help fill those senior focus groups!


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