Thanks to leadership from organizations like the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia and Philadelphia Corporation for Aging (PCA), Philadelphia is one of only a few cities in America to strategically engage young professionals in addressing the challenges of aging today and in the future.
GenPhilly, a program of PCA, supports a network of approximately 300 emerging professionals who are inspiring Philadelphians to connect with older adults through their professional and personal lives.
Nearly three years ago, committed professionals from Federation, PCA, United Way, Center in the Park, the West Oak Lane NORC and Benefits Data Trust began GenPhilly to provide creative programming and professional development opportunities that would help members educate themselves and others about the needs and talents of seniors, while creating a Philadelphia community where members themselves will want to age.
Kate Clark, PCA planner and GenPhilly chair, said that a main reason for forming GenPhilly was the fact that healthy aging is a multidisciplinary issue, not just a social services issue. "Now we're getting our peers across many fields to think differently about aging issues," said Clark.
Raechel Hammer, vice president of Strategic Development and Compliance for the Klein JCC, is a GenPhilly leadership committee member. "I got involved to broaden my horizons and see what others were doing to benefit our elders," she said. "GenPhilly is a wonderful platform for young professionals to come together to educate each other about how we can make Philadelphia more of an age-friendly city."
Hammer noted that GenPhilly is beneficial for both Jewish communal professionals and Jewish seniors. "GenPhilly exposes Jewish professionals to a variety of discussions about seniors and helps us to think out of the box. It's important for our staff to know what's available for seniors both inside and outside the Jewish community so that our seniors can benefit from all available services, no matter who's funding them."
GenPhilly's bimonthly networking meetings have been very popular, according to Clark. The group also regularly hosts events on innovative ways to ensure healthy aging. For example, this past March, 50 professionals packed a "Seniors on the Move" program examining innovations in senior transportation, which Federation co-sponsored, according to Brian Gralnick, director of Federation's Center for Social Responsibility and GenPhilly's vice chair. "The lack of senior transportation in our area is too great for us to sit still and not do something about," he said. Other popular events have focused on topics such as involving seniors in community gardening and the importance of pets to older adults.
According to Gralnick, GenPhilly enhances the Center for Social Responsibility's work to offer comprehensive support for local Jewish seniors. This past year, the center provided services for more than 7,400 seniors in their homes and residential settings. This included providing nearly 350,000 meals and helping 5,025 seniors remain in their own homes through services like transportation, chore assistance and home repairs.
Gralnick said that focusing on Philadelphia's senior population, particularly its Jewish seniors, is more important than ever. "Jews have an aging population older than the average American demographic. Plus, seniors are the largest growing population group in Greater Philadelphia, and in 2020 for the first time, people age 65 will outnumber people under the age of 15. All while state funding for senior services is being reduced."