Three years after receiving a significant portion of a $478,492 federal grant and extensive assistance from MetroWest Jewish agencies, an aging-in-place program in Caldwell — like its counterpart in Parsippany — is now officially independent.
By design, the wide-ranging activities of Caldwell LIVE — from health seminars and exercise programs to Lifelong Learning classes for seniors — will be run by organizations inside Caldwell, without federal dollars or the day-to-day assistance of United Jewish Communities of MetroWest NJ or its partner agencies, including the Jewish Vocational Service and Jewish Family Service of MetroWest.
“Now the community really holds the future of the program in its hands,” said Karen Alexander, director of eldercare services at UJC MetroWest.
“We have prepared the local community organizations to maintain those programs’ elements. We have left the community on a physical basis, but we have identified volunteers who will continue to do the programming.”
Between late 2008, when the Caldwell LIVE program was inaugurated, and this month, when it becomes independent of outside agencies, Alexander and Roberta Schoenberg, an expert on the elderly at Jewish Family Service of MetroWest, have been actively involved in its programming.
Schoenberg, who is retiring, and Rachel Cohen, program manager for the At Home Services Division of the JVS, were instrumental in the set-up and operation of the program in Caldwell.
Caldwell, where 40 percent of the town’s 3,300 households included a resident 55 or older when the program began, is considered a Naturally Occurring Retirement Community, or NORC. Efforts like Caldwell LIVE are meant to help aging residents remain in their homes, an option considered cheaper, healthier, and more secure than institutional care.
From its inception, Caldwell LIVE’s participants have included a roster of public and private agencies. Most of them will remain involved in the town’s activities for its seniors.
• The Grover Cleveland Senior Center, which will continue to make referrals for seniors and will coordinate the Caldwell LIVE calendar.
• The town’s public library, which will coordinate the Feel Good Friday health education programs in conjunction with Mountainside Hospital in Montclair and will host Caldwell College’s Lifelong Learning classes.
• Congregation Agudath Israel, which will remain the host of the Wednesday morning Walking Club. JCC MetroWest will continue to coordinate.
• The West Essex Ministerial Association, an interfaith council, which helped organize seniors among their various faith communities who created and participated in many adult programs.
“The folks seated around the table have seen the value of the programs and integrated their functions into their ongoing work,” said Alexander. UJC MetroWest, she added, “will continue to provide the printing and distribution of the monthly calendars issued by the LIVE program.”
Caldwell is one of three NORCs she helped to organize.
The first, Parsippany LIVE, began in 2005 and became independent of MetroWest at the end of 2010. UJC continues to distribute its monthly calendar.
Verona LIVE is the third site; it launched in 2010.
The intent has been for all three NORCs to achieve what Alexander called “community sustainability.”
“The host community identifies the pieces they want to maintain going forward,” she said, “and we work with partner organizations to assume responsibility for the ongoing implementation of those program elements.”
Nonetheless, many UJC MetroWest resources will remain available to the aging-in-place programs.
“We are catalysts; we are facilitators,” said Alexander. “We hope these communities will work to pursue grant monies to perpetuate services.” But, she added, “we are still available as a resource; we are still here.”
All three programs were seeded by federal earmarks secured by New Jersey’s two U.S. senators, Democrats Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez, and two area members of Congress, Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-Dist. 8) and Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-Dist. 11).
But earmarks were abolished in the current session of Congress.
Alexander explained that eliminating the earmarks may mean “there won’t be more partnerships in more communities.”
“The earmark money was important in creating the architecture and the infrastructure of the programs and providing staffing to create the networks of partners and relationships,” she said. “That is how you get started. It is like building a barn. The earmarks are the dollars to get the barn raised. Once you get the barn up, you have to paint it and maintain it, but it is not the same sort of effort as getting the barn raised.”
With the absence of earmarks, Alexander is hunting for other sources of initial funding for future NORC programs in the MetroWest area.
One possibility may be the Partners for Health Foundation, which helped match federal funds in Verona and Caldwell, and which, said Alexander, “is very interested in looking at aging-in-place in our region. It has made a commitment to support the transition in Verona LIVE over the next six months.”
In addition, she said, “United Way of Northern New Jersey has funded LIVE in Verona and Caldwell and wants to maintain support in 2012.”
“We have a model that works, and we would welcome the opportunity to talk with other funders who have the means to help us establish another program,” Alexander said.