10 January 2020
A Message from Gil Preuss
This is part of a series of messages about the way we are thinking about our work in 2020 and beyond.
To describe Jewish Greater Washington’s seniors is to describe a cohort of people actively engaged in Jewish life and with causes that matter most to them and to the wellbeing of our community. Representing one-fifth of our community’s population, people ages 65 and older are availing themselves of Jewish religious and cultural activities, and seeking out opportunities to learn about Israel, Jewish tradition, trends in American Jewish life, and more.
In other words, seniors, like so many others, are searching for and expect a lot from the Greater Washington Jewish community, including meaningful opportunities for connection and the support and resources they need to lead healthy and fulfilling lives.
According to the 2017 Greater Washington Jewish Community Demographic Study funded by The Morningstar Foundation, more than 40% of seniors give both their time and money to supporting things like education, social justice, and politics. They are active philanthropists and leaders in the community, and eager to continue on their own Jewish journeys. In turn, whether someone is 5, 25, 45, 65, or 85, we want them to be able to find the kind of Jewish content and engagement within our community that inspires and uplifts them. Seniors, in particular, often come to our community with a strong Jewish background. We want to ensure that they can build on that and continue to explore their Jewish identity and Jewish heritage, even as they help younger generations to do so as well.
At the same time, 25% of senior households include someone who is living with health limitations. And while many of Greater Washington’s seniors feel confident they can pay for retirement, 12% are not so sure and 6% are only just getting by financially.
Fortunately, our local social service agencies are hard at work expanding their offerings and preparing to meet the needs of Greater Washington’s growing senior population. Indeed, as more people settle down in our area for the long-term, the work of places like Jewish Council for the Aging, Jewish Social Service Agency, and Charles E. Smith Life Communities will become even more vital.
Federation is proud to partner with these organizations in looking after the health and wellbeing of vulnerable seniors in our area, both Jewish and not. Thanks to a wide range of robust programs, seniors of all abilities, including 2,000 Holocaust survivors, can continue living with dignity and independence, and with access to crucial services as well as a sense of community.
At Federation, we too are approaching the coming years with this dual understanding in mind. Beyond attending to people’s immediate physical needs, a truly vibrant community is one that also attends to the needs of our souls. As we age, and as our world changes, we will be striving to live up to this goal and ensure that this is a place where people can not only survive but thrive, as Jews and as caring, passionate, and responsible people.
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