Israel’s day-care centers help older adults move from isolation to independence

Over the next two years, the Foundation will support renovations and equipment for 10 day-care centers for older adults throughout Israel, as part of ongoing efforts to ensure they are able to age independently — and with dignity — in their homes.

These projects are in partnership with the National Insurance Institute, known in Israel as Bituach L’Umi, which shares the Foundation’s commitment to supporting older adults. The facilities are designed to address the isolation of low-income older adults by offering services to help maintain their independence while they remain in their community, thus delaying or preventing the need to enter an institution. The centers are geographically and religiously diverse and cumulatively benefit about 10,500 adults each week.

The Foundation’s latest funding builds on a $2 million grant in 2022, which supported new construction and large-scale renovations at five day-care centers throughout Israel. Supporting the independence, care, and well-being of older adults represents one of the Foundation’s largest and most long-standing areas of investment in Israel and the United States — a commitment that originated with its founder, Harry Weinberg.

In Israel, older adults who qualify for a nursing allowance — generally those whose functions have deteriorated and who find it difficult to care for themselves and run their households — may receive the cost-effective services of day-care centers, which help ensure maximum quality of life. In addition to various physical and occupational therapies, as well as therapies to help stave off cognitive decline, these centers provide social activities. With offerings such as gardening clubs, dance and art classes, and hair salons, they foster a sense of camaraderie and belonging, and stem isolation and loneliness, by creating a community for older adults who would otherwise be home alone or forced to move to a residential facility.

One of the five day-care centers funded in 2022 is located in Bnei Brak, an ultra-Orthodox town outside of Tel Aviv, where more than 600 older adults are suffering from significant cognitive decline. This funding will allow the center to create separate wings for men and women with rooms for dining, activities, and occupational therapy. Spaces will also be equipped with therapeutic gardens and Snoezelen rooms — a controlled multisensory environment found to be especially soothing for people with dementia. 

Among the centers receiving grants this year is one located by the Galilee that primarily serves Druze (Arab) individuals in the northern towns of Usfia and Daliyat El-Carmel. The center plans to build a treatment area specifically for older adults with severe cognitive decline, including separate facilities for women and men — a requirement for its Arab clients.

In addition, the Foundation will support much-needed smaller-scale renovations, including the purchase of décor and equipment (e.g., light therapy machines). Many centers have dated and worn equipment, as nearly all were built more than 35 years ago. The renovations will also enable them to increase their capacity to serve older adults within various high-poverty communities — as well as smaller, more isolated towns — and to add or update services, including providing hot meals, intergenerational opportunities, and various activities and therapies such as dance and gardening. Projects are all slated for completion in 2024.

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