Dr. Wong was joined onstage by Joshua Hoffman, the Executive Director of the Sephardic Foundation on Aging; Stuart Himmelfarb, the founder and CEO of B3/The Jewish Boomer Platform and the Active Aging Resource Network; and moderator Sarah Eisenmann, the Chief Community and Jewish Life Officer at JFNA. Panelists’ conversation focused on the common misconception that older adults are more likely to integrate into the Jewish community than the younger generations.
Emerging data shows that the 50-75 year-old group is the least engaged and highlights the intergenerational divide amongst the age-diverse North American Jewish community. Many argue that this is because there is a disproportionately large investment in youth engagement versus older adult investment, which is bolstered by a lack of research into the programming older adults want and need.
GenSpace – which is located on the campus of the historic Wilshire Boulevard Temple – prioritized understanding the preferences of older adults when it created its programming. Partnering with Stanford University, GenSpace conducted focus groups to determine what older adults want in a community center. The result is a space to socialize, exercise, be creative, learn about technology, and engage in cultural exchange.
“There is a real need for these spaces […] where older adults see that they are going to join a space that is for them, that is fun, innovative, engaging, and isn’t these leftover senior centers that we’ve seen in the past,”Dr. Jennifer Wong, Director of Genspace
The panelists also discussed the value of intergenerational connection as a way to combat negative stereotypes. Dr. Wong highlighted various intergenerational programs that GenSpace offers, including a program with preschoolers, an art class with second-grade students, conversations with third and fourth-graders in Living Room Chats, and a volunteer program with fifth and sixth-graders in the Tech Bar. These intergenerational programs provide an opportunity for learning, building self-esteem, and combating social isolation for the young and old.
“There’s something really special that happens when young people are with elders not from their family. There’s a sweetness of caring that is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. So I think it’s very important to get people exposed to other older adults and older adults exposed to different children,”Dr. Jennifer Wong, Director of Genspace
The full panel discussion can be viewed below. GenSpace is honored to be a place that advances the conversation on age diversity and intergenerationality and commits itself to combating ageism and creating a community where older adults can thrive.