I’m writing this on the train back from New York, following a recent journey to the Jewish Home in Rockleigh, located in northern New Jersey. The Jewish Home has nursing home and assisted living facilities. The board wanted to educate itself on “independent living” and how it compares to what they do. I was terribly flattered to be asked to offer some insights. And while I have been practicing urban planning with a focus on affordable housing for roughly 30 years, let’s be clear that I was solicited not because of who I am, but rather because of what JCHE is, does and represents in the field.
Visiting the Jewish Home, I was struck by how remarkable the evolution of nursing home care has been. After decades of a hospital-style model, the progressive, modern homes have exclusively private rooms, lots of living space and a homey-feel. The photographs on the walls from people’s travels made it both exotic/exciting and comfortable/familiar to walk down the halls. The photos were donated by friends of the Home and screened by an independent committee of visually-oriented volunteers (a good idea we may “borrow”)!
I was also struck once again by the realization that even as nursing homes become less institutional, the preference for today’s seniors – and the emerging generation — is to remain in housing that offers the right amount of supports. Especially when that housing, as does all JCHE properties, offers a chance for socializing in both planned and informal ways. The comfort of a recognizable home, with a kitchen and private living area, is just different than a room on a corridor, no matter how you accessorize it. And the combination of the privacy of one’s own home (apartment) and the ease of connection is ideal.
Collaboration across agencies is also going to be necessary for all of us to survive in the tighter, more demanding-of-evidence philanthropic world of the coming years. Those who are brilliant at doing the nursing home and assisted living care well, such as the Jewish Home of Rockleigh and Chelsea Jewish Nursing Home close by to us, will be key resources for agencies like JCHE (although I confess to believing there are none really like us!) to bring more and more services to the housing to see how far we can collectively push the envelope.