The rising longevity and the expected increase in the number of senior citizens in the following decades, together with the implementation of an “ageing in place” policy, have led to the development of community settings and solutions helping senior citizens and their family members in various areas of life. The Transgenerational Community Program was developed in order to strengthen the community aspect in the array of services provided to senior citizens in the community. It was designed to form a community for senior citizens, provide them with a sense of belonging and security, and contribute to improving their quality of life. The program was initiated by the Dalia and Eli Hurvitz Foundation, and it was implemented in four municipalities and two regional councils in 2017-2020. The pilot was led by the Senior Citizens Administration and Community Work Service at the Ministry of Labor, Welfare and Social Services; the Dalia and Eli Hurvitz Foundation, and JDC Israel-Eshel. The program focused on three intervention areas: the individual senior citizen and his or her family; the community; and local organizations, including social services departments.
JDC Israel-Eshel asked the Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute to evaluate the pilot program. This report presents the findings of the evaluation study of the six communities where the program was piloted.
Examine the degree to which the objectives of the pilot program were achieved according to success indicators defined in its logical model with reference to the three focal areas: individual, community, and local organizations.
The study was conducted retrospectively: data were collected from various sources after the pilot had been completed. We used a mixed-methods approach, which included the following quantitative and qualitative elements:
- Structured interviews with 302 program members (including 39 senior citizens volunteering for them and for the senior citizens in the community, hereafter collectively, community activists) and with 604 senior citizens in the community who were not program members (hereafter, residents). The interviews were conducted in June-October 2020.
- Semi-structured interviews with 12 social workers in social services departments, 12 professionals and officials in local organizations involved in the program, and six program directors. The interviews were conducted in May-June 2020.
- Analysis of data from the administrative database maintained in the communities and surveys of the Central Bureau of Statistics.
- Analysis of steering and executive committee summaries.
Activities. The program initiated, organized, or took part in organizing some 100 social activities. A total of about 5,000 people participated in them.
The community activists took part in the committees and decision-making processes regarding the community space. Some of them completed a leadership course and training sessions. The activists initiated and organized about half the activities designated for all senior citizens.
Volunteerism. The volunteerism rate was the highest among the community activists, lower among the program members and lowest among the residents. Nevertheless, these volunteerism rates are higher than the average among all 65+ year olds in the Israeli population.
The program’s benefits for individuals. The program contributed to empowering all senior citizens in the community and to increasing their self-efficacy and involvement in community life, particularly among the community activists. Although the homebound program members were not defined as a specific target population for the program, they received special attention and reported greater benefits than the homebound residents who did not take part in the program. Nevertheless, they still had unmet needs.
The program’s benefits for the community. The program contributed significantly to increasing social cohesion and collective efficacy, manifested in community resilience. A lesser contribution was attributed to service development, manifested in a slight improvement in the accessibility of services and in physical space. The community engagement during the COVID-19 crisis increased the sense of belonging of all senior citizens to the community.
The program’s benefits for local organizations. The program served as a platform for collaborations with local organizations, raising their awareness of the senior citizen population and its abilities, enabling them to better recognize it as an asset for itself and for the community. The program contributed to the adoption of integrated and planned community working procedures in local organizations for the benefit of all senior citizens in the community. Nevertheless, social workers providing individual services in the social services departments commented that they had received no systematic training or tools for community work.
The program’s reach should be expanded to additional groups in the community, and active participation in it should be encouraged, including providing solutions for the less mobile and homebound senior citizens. As part of cultivating community resilience and community initiatives among all senior citizens in the community, leadership development must be expanded and deepened, with greater emphasis on the accessibility of public services and the adjustment of physical space to the needs of this population. In social services departments, the activity of community social workers must be reinforced, specifically among senior citizens, and systematic training on aging must be provided to them, as well as specifically in the area of community approach for social workers working with senior citizens. We recommend reevaluating the program in a year or two, over the next stages of implementing the social-community change it promotes.