“Supportive Community”, a program for elderly in Israel living in the community, was initiated by ESHEL (the Association for the Planning and Development of Services for the Aged in Israel) and the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, which, in cooperation with local associations for the elderly, municipalities, and private companies, also fund and implement it.
The supportive community program supplies four services: special medical services (physician house calls and an ambulance service); an emergency call service; a neighborhood facilitator (simple home repairs and social support); and social activities. The program is also intended to encourage voluntarism among its members, both to reinforce members’ sense of involvement and to provide additional assistance to the neighborhood facilitator.
This study examined the extent to which the program has achieved its goals, the unmet needs among the members, and differences between the programs implemented by different bodies. The study was conducted in four communities, and included interviews with 200 randomly sampled members and 15 program directors and operators. In addition to the in-depth study of four communities, information was gathered from 46 programs, providing a more general picture of the population served and of the services provided in the supportive community program in Israel.
The study found high levels of satisfaction and that the program meets members’ overall expectations. Eighty percent of the members were satisfied with the program overall. The vast majority (about 70%) felt the program contributes to their sense of personal security. A significant percentage (about one-quarter) reported that it assists them to remain in their homes, and some one-third reported that it alleviates the burden on their adult children, which is related to long sustainability in the community. The greatest satisfaction was with the emergency call service operators – 91% of the users were satisfied. There was also high satisfaction with the neighborhood facilitator (86%), the medical services (83%), and the social activities (82%). Satisfaction was relatively low with the ambulance service (75%) and the repair service (66%).
According to the study of findings, the most frequently used service is physician house visits, followed by social activities. The least used services are the repair service and the ambulance service.
The study identified a number of areas requiring attention.
Utilization of services – Members’ knowledge about available services needs to be reinforced on a regular basis; some groups also need more encouragement to utilize services.
Social and volunteer activities – There is a high level of variation among the programs; these areas have not been adequately developed in all of the programs.
Neighborhood facilitator – Given his position as a key figure in the program, there is a need to invest in enhancing the facilitators’ abilities and skills. One way is to establish a forum of neighborhood facilitators for mutual learning and support.
Unmet needs – The study identified unmet needs in several areas that are not included in the program, such as an escort to medical examinations and getting medications. These issues are of growing importance, given the aging of supportive community program members and the increase in the proportion of disabled.
As part of efforts to improve the program on a national level, discussions were held about ways to improve the dissemination of information to members and how to provide solutions for the unmet needs that were identified. The study’s findings were presented to ESHEL’s inter-organizational committee on housing and to senior staff at the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs