Harley Tabak, President & CEO, Jewish HomeLife

In 2017, the Atlanta Regional Commission projected that the 60 and overpopulation would double by 2030. In a related story, the Atlanta Business Chronicle pointed out that Atlanta was named as the number six city in the country for baby boomers to find work. These stories highlight that Atlanta’s aging population is rapidly growing, in part because many older adults are moving here to be closer to their children and grandchildren. In fact, more than 90% of our residents at The Cohen Home and Berman Commons are not from Atlanta, moving here to be closer to their adult children.

In a 2016 article, Forbes named Atlanta as America’s No. 1 rapidly aging city, citing that “Atlanta’s senior population grew 20 percent between 2010 and 2014, well above the average 11.3 percent increase seen across the country’s 53 largest metropolitan areas.”

As the CEO of Jewish HomeLife, the only Jewish non-profit in Atlanta that supports every stage of the aging journey, I am tasked with preparing our organization to help meet the needs of this Age Wave, which is often compared to a tsunami – getting incrementally bigger each year, until one day it crashes on our shore. The challenge is twofold – helping those with immediate needs, while also preparing the much larger segment of our community which may not need assistance for many years. In the last ten years, Jewish HomeLife has strategically grown from a small nursing home on Howell Mill, to a comprehensive network of nine at-home care services and residential communities in Buckhead, Dunwoody and Johns Creek. We’ve also expanded our educational programs to help support families who have begun to see a loved one decline as a result of dementia or other chronic health issues. We embrace aging and encourage families to have conversations now so they can do the same. Unfortunately, aging is not a topic most people want to discuss. Aging is complicated and “unsexy” – and it creates a new dynamic between partners or between adult children and parents that many of us don’t want to think about …until a crisis forces the conversation.  On March 29th, our next London Family AgeSmart Lecture will cover this very topic.

In the near term, to help our community get ready for this demographic growth, Jewish HomeLife is becoming a more efficient and effective business by: achieving better clinical outcomes; improving customer satisfaction; expanding in-home services to help people age in their homes; streamlining our operating expenses; and becoming better at attracting and retaining excellent caregivers.

We are also strengthening our ties with other organizations in the community to help older adults and their families with their aging journey. Age Well Atlanta is a great example of this effort – a collaboration between Jewish HomeLife, JF&CS, Federation and the MJCCA.  Together we are identifying the resources each of our agencies provides to make it easier for families to get the help they need.

In the future, we especially desire to work closely with all the synagogues in the area to bring educational programs about aging to their members, and to identify as early as possible when intervention with a specific service might be appropriate. Whether you are a baby-boomer worried you haven’t saved enough to age in place, or a gen-xer just beginning to notice your parents need more support, our community can count on Jewish HomeLife to point you in the right direction.

With medical and technological advances, people are living longer. The task is daunting, but together we can help many make the aging journey as smooth, safe, and enjoyable as possible.