‘A good man’
Addressing a capacity crowd at the Jewish Association on Aging’s annual meeting, Steve Halpern painted the broad brushstrokes of JAA’s future: “the deinstitutionalization of senior living.”
Halpern, who chairs the board of JAA, told those at the Oct. 24 annual meeting, held in Levy Hall at Rodef Shalom Congregation, about his visit earlier that week to the Charles E. Smith Life Communities in Rockville, Md. — a facility of the Washington, D.C., area JAA.
There, he and 17 other visiting Pittsburghers saw an independent living village for residents with dementia, complete with commons area, gardens and individual living units.
“It was like an oasis,” Halpern said. “A magnificent, small, community of residences right out of a Frank Lloyd Wright design and setting, a place where 18 individuals with mid to late stage dementia could live in peace and comfort.
“And it’s part of our future,” he added.
Halpern’s report was just one highlight of the annual meeting. The other was the address by Mark Kennedy Shriver, a son of Sargent and Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who just authored a book about his father, “A Good Man: Rediscovering My Father, Sargent Shriver.”
What Halpern and his group saw in Rockville is called a “green house concept” for senior living. Halpern said there are more than 100 such facilities around the country with more in development.
Such a concept is a long-term goal for JAA requiring significant planning and work to get it done.
“We put some ideas in people’s minds as to what’s important to us,” Halpern said after the meeting, “and about what we want to do going forward.”
First, he said the board must complete its strategic planning process, which includes input from the Federation and the Jewish Healthcare Foundation, and could be complete in 90 to 120 days.
“It is likely that one of the recommendations from the plan will be around raising a certain level of capital from the community to fund certain identified priorities,” Halpern said in a later email to the Chronicle. “While it is likely that these priorities will include certain residential facilities such as independent living (which we don’t have today), increased memory care accommodations … and some renovations to our existing facilities, we have not yet determined the amount we’ll need to raise for these initiatives.”
He said JAA is not yet actively fundraising; neither has it determined an amount it would need to raise.
But he did identify increasing the JAA’s $5 million endowment as a key component to making ideas like the green house concept a reality.
It can be done, he added, noting that the JAA in Washington also had a $5 million endowment 20 years ago, but has since raised it to $90 million.
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In Shriver’s speech, the former member of the Maryland House of Delegates and a senior vice president of Save the Children, described his father as a metaphor for leading a good life.
Sargent Shriver, was the first director of the Peace Corps, U.S. ambassador to France and the 1972 Democratic nominee for vice president, running with Sen. George McGovern of South Dakota. He also battled Alzheimer’s disease for the last 10 years of his life.
Shriver shared many recollections of his father, including how so many people from waitresses to garbage collectors, who had actually known him, approached the younger Shriver after Sargent’s death and simply said, “Your father was a good man.” Those encounters inspired the title of the book.
He said he once asked his father, while he was in the throes of the disease, “Dad you’re losing your mind, how does that make you feel?”
“He said, ‘I’m doing the best I can with what God’s given me.’ And I realized that’s how the guy lived his whole life.”
Also at the meeting JAA President and CEO Deborah Winn-Horvitz used her report to identify various projects JAA is undertaking, or plans to undertake, to make seniors more independent.
She specifically mentioned the Home Meds program where JAA staffers visit senior high rises, screening individuals to assure they’re taking their medication safely and as prescribed; resident-centered dining at Charles Morris dining rooms that includes a kitchen available 24 hours a day; JAA’s ongoing efforts to convert to electronic medical records; and nighttime dementia care for seniors who live outside JAA facilities, offering a respite for their regular caregivers.
Stephen Tobe was introduced as JAA’s 2013 Volunteer of the Year for his work in planting and beautifying the gardens, patios and entrances around Weinberg Village.
In accepting the honor, Tobe lauded the JAA staff he worked with, and admitted his efforts may be a bit selfish.
After all, he said, “really, all I’m doing is getting it ready for when I move in.”
(Lee Chottiner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)