Supportive Community: An Evaluation Study, 2010

The Supportive Community Program is an additional component of the system of community services that enables the elderly to remain in their homes (to age in place) and maintain their quality of life. The program’s services respond to needs that are not met – or not adequately met – by other services in the community. The underlying premise of the program was that there was a need to focus on a set of services that contributed to the feeling of security of the elderly. The main services are an emergency call service, physician home visits, and social activities.

Additionally, in every community there is a community facilitator (in Hebrew, “Av Kehila” – community parent) who helps with repairs in the apartment, provides social support and can be turned to for all sorts of help. The Supportive Community Program was established by JDC-ESHEL and the Ministry of Social Affairs. It is implemented by local associations for the elderly, local authorities and for-profit companies.

The study, which was commissioned and financed by the Nash Family Foundation in cooperation with JDC-ESHEL, aims to provide a comprehensive picture of the program and its contribution to its elderly members. This is the third evaluation study of the program. Nine years have passed since the previous (2001) study and the program has undergone accelerated development. It is now implemented in many areas across the country (246 communities) and serves more than 46,000 elderly. In recent years, the program’s developers and implementers have held discussions regarding various aspects of the members’ needs and the responses offered by the program, taking into account that the members are aging and new members from a diversity of populations are joining. These discussions reinforced the need for up-to-date information on the implementation of the program, which would help decision-makers continue to define the desired directions for the program’s development.

The study included interviews with a national representative sample of 714 members in 18 communities in both the urban and rural sectors, some operated by nonprofit organizations, others by for-profit companies. In addition, in-depth interviews were conducted with 15 staff members to obtain a complementary perspective.

A considerable number of the elderly were found to have needs in areas that the program aims to address. Not everyone in need of assistance actually asked for it; some members preferred to receive help from other people and some were unaware of the services to which they were entitled as part of the program. A key finding was that the overwhelming majority of those requesting any of the services did receive the assistance they required. There was a notably high level of satisfaction with the program in general and with the various services provided, especially the emergency call service. The major program contribution reported by the members was feelings of more personal security. New immigrants and housebound members expressed relatively less satisfaction with the program. No differences were found in the level of satisfaction with programs implemented by for-profit versus nonprofit organizations, and between communities in the urban sector and those in the rural sector.

The report includes a number of programmatic directions to strengthen the program. Among them, it is important to note the need to consider ways of improving the response to the needs of the housebound elderly and the need to examine ways of strengthening the program’s communal dimension.