Community Spotlight Archive: New Jersey

New Jersey State Legislation Making Progress
The Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Princeton
September 25, 2012

The Jewish Federations of North America’s (JFNA) National NORCs Aging in Place Initiative peaked in Fiscal Year 2008, and wound down over the next two fiscal cycles.  In an 8 year-period, JFNA’s initiative secured 99 demonstration grants for nearly 50 institutions in 26 states.

This investment (partnership) was intended to help provide participating communities with the necessary building blocks for successful Aging in Place programming consistent with the trends, preferences, and needs of their communities’ older adult populations.  It also led to the establishment of the broader Community Innovations for Aging in Place Program of the Administration on Aging (2009-2012).

As an Initiative, JFNA worked together with communities on applications, program development, the sharing of best practices, the dissemination of key accomplishments, and in establishing the credentials (bone fides) for lasting programs.  For these communities, the work that has been accomplished has created a base of desired programming, experience and infrastructure for healthy and safe aging that ensures the quality of life for their communities’ senior members.

Every indicator on aging in America points to Aging in Place. Yet, national assessments reveal that our communities are not adequately prepared for the vast expansion of the older adult population.  With 10,000 Americans reaching retirement age every day this is an astonishing shortfall.

Through the National NORCs Aging in Place Initiative, participating communities were ahead of the curve.  Now that the program has sunset, these program must transition to locally supported footings.  This would be consistent with the expected course public policy makers have prescribed for the country, and has always been a planning function (responsibility) of the participants.

Unfortunately, the timing of this critical transition came in the middle of the worst economic downturn in modern times, now referred to as the “the Great Recession.” State and local public sector partners, charities, foundations, and other natural allies and resources have all been grappling with budget shortfalls, retrenchment, and tough choices among competing priorities for critical services.

But now there is evidence that some – those who have remained inspired, focused, and committed to their NORCs supportive services programs — may have turned a corner on securing needed local support.  Earlier this month, New Jersey’s Senate Health and Senior Services Committee approved legislation that provides funding for a NORC-SSP project in Mercer County.  A companion bill was approved by the full State Assembly in June.

The Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Princeton, New Jersey, has played a significant role in advancing this State initiative, along with the New Jersey State Association of Jewish Federations.  Princeton was a participant in the National NORCs Aging in Place Initiative in FY2009.

New Jersey follows a number of other states that have provided support to NORC-SSP programs.  Most notably, neighboring New York State (and City) has enacted permanent legislation that supports multiple NORC-SSP contracts throughout the State.  In better fiscal times, Maryland, Georgia, Indiana and Massachusetts also provided support for these initiatives.  New Jersey, which is home to 10 past participants in the National NORCS Initiative, could significantly benefit from a robust program such as New York State’s.  Perhaps, with the passage of the Mercer County project, a key footing will be established for future opportunities across New Jersey.