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December 23, 1988 - Image 22

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-12-23

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Caring for the elderly
has left government and Jewish
leaders struggling to find answers.

Crisis In Aging


Staff Writer

erman Kaufman, 78, sits
strapped in a wheelchair next
to his bed in the Livonia
Nursing Home. With cloudy
eyes, he stares at a flickering
television screen and mumbles.
The television is his only compa-
nion. In his younger years, Kaufman
played cards, read newspapers and oc-
casionally went to the synagogue. But
in the past 13 years, his main activity
has been day-to-day living in three nur-
sing homes — none of which are
Jewish. State officials forced the
previous two homes to close.
When he was 26, Kaufman came
to Detroit from Lithuania with his
mother and two brothers. For 23 years,
he stood on street corners and sold The
Detroit News. He never married. His
family members are dead.
His only contact with the outside
world comes twice a month when a
group of volunteers from the Jewish
Vocational Service host an Oneg Shab-
bat for Kaufman and a handful of other
Jewish residents. He chants the
"I like it:' he says. "It's a holiday"
Caring for the elderly has reached
a crisis stage as government and
Jewish community leaders search for
answers to offset continuing Medicaid
cuts, skyrocketing health care costs
and limited programming and housing
options for the burgeoning over-65 age
group. Solutions to aid the fastest grow-
ing segment of the population appear
obsolete, and few experts are optimistic
about finding answers.
Donald Bentsen, executive director
for the Michigan Non-Profit Homes
Association, says Kaufman's case is not
extreme. He is just one of the millions




of frail, aging individuals in the coun-
try who are locked into a problematic
Kaufman is totally dependent on
government funds during an era when
limited financial resources are
available and chances of such monies
becoming plentiful are slim.
"In this country, we don't know
what in the hell we want to do with the
elderly:' Bentsen says. "We have no
policies on aging, and whatever hap-
pens is going to cost frightful amounts
of money."
With 14 percent of Detroit's
estimated 65,000-member Jewish
population over age 65 and getting
older, the Jewish community is at a
crossroad. Some Jewish leaders say the
community has responded to the in-
creasing needs of the aging with con-
tinued pledges to the annual Allied
Jewish Campaign, from which an
estimated $2.5 to $3 million will pro-
vide services this year to the area's
The money includes the $967,000
allocated to the Jewish Home For Ag-
ed, and $41,400 that goes to the Jewish
Federation Apartments, which receives
money from the federal Department of
Housing and Urban Development.
The remainder of the campaign's
distributions go through other agencies
like the Jewish Community Center
and the Jewish Vocational Service.
Such agencies provide programs
like the JVS Outreach, which has iden-
tified and plans visits to about 140
senior and indigent men and women
like Herman Kaufman who are
isolated from the community in inner
city apartments, nursing homes or
ether facilities.

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