Community Spotlight Archive: Miami, FL

Naturally Occurring Retirement Community (NORC) Initiative
Jewish Community Services of South Florida, Inc.

Since it’s inception in 2003, the Jewish Community Services (JCS) of South Florida, Inc.’s “Aging in Place” Program has been working to create an infrastructure to reach out to its multi-cultural clients.  By promoting a culture of inclusion that stresses the commonalities of aging in an independent living setting, the program has achieved great success in this arena.

The JCS Program, located at Point East in Aventura, Florida, was built in 1967, and is comprised of 17 mid-rise buildings, a community Clubhouse, coffee shop, special events rooms and swimming pools.  There are 1,200 units and more than 1,500 residents.  The residents are mostly in their mid- to late-70’s, with a significant number of 85–and-older seniors.  Approximately 31 percent of the current residents are Hispanic, an upward trend that is reflective of the changing demographics of the City of Miami and Miami-Dade County.  When the JCS Program was first initiated and a community needs assessment was conducted, JCS determined that the community was not cohesive and that mistrust and misgivings existed among the various ethnic and cultural groups that made up the resident population.  Bridging these gaps through the promotion of neighborliness and the attention to shared concerns and interests of all the residents became an early priority and lasting tenet of the Program.

To this end, the JCS Program engages residents in the planning, promotion and implementation of the programs and services offered, with guidance and assistances from the JCS Professional staff.  Through greater involvement in program planning and development, the resident factions became more comfortable with participating and expressing their needs.  As a result, today, the advisory board is made up of a diverse representation of the community at large, as is the volunteer corps.

As a result, most of the programs and events are designed for cross cultural appeal.  For example, health information literature is provided in Spanish and English; community health partners, who provide health screenings, testing, workshops and focus groups, are bilingual; and the celebration of holidays are conducted in an ecumenical and multi-lingual fashion. One of the most successful community-building programs has been the congregate meals program.  In addition to improving nutrition and increased socialization, the act of “breaking bread” together has been pivotal to breaking down cultural barriers between people.

The JCS program not only provides a basket of coordinated services to the senior residents of Point East to support their aging in place, it has also helped to transform it into a more cohesive and neighbor-friendly community to improve the well-being and quality of life of its residents.