The 18th World Congress of Jewish Studies

Health and Wellbeing Among the Elderly in a Jerusalem Religious Community

An innovative pilot program in a Jerusalem synagogue was developed to try to tap its social and religious capital to benefit older community members who want to age in place. It attempted to promote members` health and wellbeing through a variety of features, including support from a paid program staff as well as from other members. This program may be especially important because of the COVID-19 pandemic

In order to assess the impact of a synagogue-based aging in place program both before and during the outbreak, focus groups and in-depth interviews were conducted with 30 program participants, non-enrollees, and staff in spring 2019 and then again with program leaders and a membership sample a year later. A grounded theory approach was used in analyzing and coding interview transcripts for themes and subthemes. Content analysis of program documents and meeting notes was also performed

The evaluation found that a faith-based aging in place program had a generally positive impact on health, well-being and quality of life of its members, with ts effectiveness magnified by the group`s strong social cohesion. The program value has impact since COVID-19. However, administrative challenges exist and the program may need to be adapted for other settings, whether religious or not. The evaluation led to the conclusion that the health and well-being benefits of social connectedness among aging in place program members can be magnified when intertwined with religious identities. The importance of such a program both to participants and to society have increased since COVID-19 and are expected to continue.