Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Program in Public Health

Defining the Older Adult Landscape: How an ElderCare organization relies on research and data to improve the health of the population

by Amy Eisenstein, PhD and Nissa Romanowski, MPH

Community based organizations work tirelessly to meet the needs of frail and at-risk populations in their areas, and CJE SeniorLife is no different. Established in 1971 as the Council for Jewish Elderly, CJE SeniorLife (CJE) upholds the famous sentiment of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, “The test of a people is how it behaves toward the old.” As such, our mission is to enhance quality of life and facilitate the independence of older adults. We are committed to serving older adults and their families regardless of income, religion, gender or ethnicity. Most of our 23,000-plus clients live close to or below the poverty level and participate in free or subsidized programs. At the foundation of CJE is the belief that as people age, they want and need to remain independent to the greatest degree possible. CJE is intent on helping older adults to claim their independence and manage their own healthcare for as long as is feasible. This increases quality of life for individuals and decreases the eldercare burden for society. CJE aims to achieve their mission by striving for excellence through respect, advocacy, compassion, intention, innovation and accountability.

So, how do we help older adults remain independent?  One way is through our Center for Healthy Living.  The goal of the Center for Healthy Living is to provide education and socialization for older adults who are seeking to stay healthy, independent, and socially engaged.  The Center strives to help older adults remain in their homes longer, with improved general health, improved quality of life, and reduced disability.  And how does staff of the Center know what programs to offer to our clients. The answer: Staff turn to research and look at the data. For example, results of a CJE Population Health Study showed staff that 49% of CJE’s clients limit their activity due to a fear of falling.  Therefore, the Center for Healthy Living added more fall-related programs knowing they are needed and would be well attended.

CJE is one of the few social service agencies in the country that has the benefit of an in-house research department, the Leonard Schanfield Research Institute (LSRI). The LSRI has a long history of implementing programs based on the evidence gleaned from its research projects. The LSRI’s work is even more important now that there is less funding to support the development of innovative programs, especially those that focus on an older adult population.



 

eisenstein

Amy Eisenstein, PhD is Director of the Leonard Schanfield Research Institute at CJE SeniorLife, and Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Medical Social Sciences in the Feinberg School of Medicine. Her research interests include issues related to aging, health, and disease with a focus on measuring patient reported outcomes associated with long term care and community-based living. She relies on mixed-methodologies to analyze and interpret research findings. Dr. Eisenstein completed her Ph.D. at the University of Illinois at Chicago, in the School of Public Health, with a focus on Aging in August of 2011.

romanowski

Nissa Romanowski, MPH is the Research Coordinator at CJE SeniorLife. CJE is a community based organization that offers services and supports to older adults living in the North Chicagoland area. She works in CJE’s Leonard Schanfield Research Institute on projects in the area of Social and Behavioral Health Science, including a PCORI funded project called the Bureau of Sages which established an advisory group of older nursing home residents and stay-at-home elders to lend their voice to research.