Gerontology and Geriatrics International Center

Prof. Ruth Katz

The Center’s rationale and importance

Population aging as a result of rapid growth of the 65+ age group has caused changes in basic family structures and intergenerational relations. It has also caused socioeconomic and technological changes, for example in retirement patterns and service consumption. These changes impact intergenerational family relationships, retirement patterns, status of older adults, and their quality of life. These developments are a challenge for both social integration and social policy. Hence the need arises for reorganization of the health and welfare service systems.

The twenty-first century poses a number of challenges for developed and developing societies, which are associated with aging populations. In Western Europe, for instance, forecasts indicate that the percentage of people aged 65+ will reach 18% of the population in 2020 (Kinsella, 2002; OECD,1996), and the figures for the United States are similar (He et al., 2005). Israel’s position on the global aging map is unique since it is still considered a “relatively young” country in which people aged 65+ constitute about 10% of the general population, and people aged 75+ (“older-older adults”) constitute 42% of all people aged 65+. However, since 1955 when Israel’s population increased approximately 3.5-fold, the older adult population has increased seven-fold, i.e., its growth is twice that of the general population. Furthermore, forecasts for 2020 indicate that the percentage of people aged 65+ will rise to 12% of the population and the weight of people aged 75+ within the older adult population will rise to 46%. The weight of Arab older adults, who currently constitute 4% of the older adult population of Israel, will rise to 10% (Brodsky, Beer, & Schnur, 2014).

The research on these issues in Israel, however, is relatively sparse and it is important to expand theoretical knowledge and create care models and programs by means of applied research. This mandates a combination of the disciplines engaged in studying this field, from the individual and family level to the policy, economic, cultural, social, and environmental levels. To prepare for this, an Interdisciplinary Research Center has been established at The Max Stern Yezreel Valley College for the purpose of research and teaching, building knowledge and creating data bases. The combination of developing theory and research with implications for community services will facilitate synergetic understanding of ageing issues.

The Center comprises two units engaged in advancing research, developing and disseminating scientific knowledge, and building intervention and training programs in the following fields:

  • Study of intergenerational family relationships, the status of the older adult in the family, and support systems for disabled older adults.
  • Health and aging, with emphasis on health service systems and how caregivers cope with chronic illnesses, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease.

 

Leadership and uniqueness

The Max Stern Yezreel Valley College, with its staff of senior researchers from the relevant disciplines who all have a national and international reputation, is in a unique and leading position to serve as the focal point for developing this Center.

Training and consultation

Researchers at the College and the Research Center provide advisory and training services in their fields of expertise, which include counselling on preparing research proposals, approaching foundations, analyzing material, supervising MA and PhD theses on aging, and preparing conferences, workshops and seminars.

The Center’s activities

Since its establishment two years ago the Center’s researchers have been awarded a number of substantial research grants from competitive foundations, and additional research proposals have been submitted. Furthermore, the Center is active in holding and promoting conferences in its fields of specialization.

Grants received:

A grant from Maccabi Healthcare Services to examine “Accessibility and usage of health services in the community: A comparison between older adult populations from the Jewish and Arab sectors and their family member caregivers”. The study was conducted by Prof. Ariela Lowenstein, Prof. Miriam Hirschfeld, doctoral student Sigal Naim, and Mr. Johnny Lemberger.

The study was completed and a comprehensive research report submitted, a Hebrew-language article was submitted to Gerontology, and a number of articles in English are currently being prepared. The findings were presented at national and international conferences.

An additional grant from Maccabi Healthcare Services in conjunction with a researcher from The University of Haifa, Prof. Yitzhak Brick, to examine “Aging in place: Attitudes and needs”. The study is being conducted by Prof. Ariela Lowenstein and doctoral student Sigal Naim, and has only recently begun.

A three-year grant from the Israel Science Foundation to examine “Transitions in caring for older adult family members, end of care, and familial, economic and social implications”. The study is being conducted by an interdisciplinary team from the College that includes Prof. Ariela Lowenstein, Prof. Ruth Katz, Prof. Nissim Ben-David, and Dr. Dafna Halperin. The study is being coordinated by Dr. Aviad Tur-Sinai, and Dr. Hedva Vinarsky-Peretz and doctoral student Sigal Naim are also participating. The study is ongoing, one article has already been submitted, and the team is continuing to gather data.

A grant from Pfizer Israel to examine “Ageism in different spheres of life with a focus on the health field”. The study is being conducted by Prof. Ariela Lowenstein, Dr. Dafna Halperin, and doctoral student Sigal Naim.

A three-year grant from the Ministry of Science and Technology Israel (MOST) to study “The role of economic and social factors impacting the decision to work after the official retirement age”, and the research team includes Dr. Aviad Tur-Sinai, Prof. Ruth Katz, Prof. Shosh Shaharabani, Prof. Ariela Lowenstein, and Dr. Daphna Halperin. The study is just starting. 

Submitted research proposals

Two proposals have been submitted to Pfizer USA by Prof. Ariela Lowenstein and Prof. Ruth Katz. The first is for: “An examination of care burden on family member caregivers and the role of the health system”. The second is on how health services contend with caring for disabled older adults.

Unfunded grant

A research proposal submitted to the Ministry of Science and Technology on the subject of “Technology for enhancing aging in place, quality of life, and resilience in everyday life and in emergency”. The research team includes Prof. Ruth Katz, Prof. Opher Etzion, Dr. Dafna Halperin, and Prof. Ariela Lowenstein.

Research proposals in preparation

A proposal to be submitted to Yad Hanadiv on “Health of family members caring for disabled older adults”.

A proposal to be submitted to The Levant Foundation and the Middle East Regional Cooperation Program (MERC) on “An examination of the needs of the aging population and their family members in the Middle East”.

Organizing conferences

At the end of November 2015 the College hosted a conference on “The Older Adult in the Rural Environment” in conjunction with the Jezreel Valley Regional Council, the regional councils, and the Association for the Elderly, sponsored by Pfizer Israel.

At the end of December 2015 a conference was held on “Family Member Caregivers”, in conjunction with ESHEL, The Association for the Planning and Development of Services for the Aged in Israel.

Participation in conferences

The Center’s faculty members participate in numerous international conferences, such as the Gerontological Society of America Conference, the Alzheimer’s Foundation International Conference, the British Society of Gerontology Conference, the Canadian Conference on Elder Law, the International Sociological Association Conference, and the World Demographic Association Conference in which Prof. Lowenstein and Prof. Katz were elected to serve as research fellows. Faculty members are also active in the research fairs held at the College, as well as in Israel Gerontological Society conferences, and several studies conducted by various research teams at the Center were presented at the conference held in February 2016.

Holocaust survivors

The Center works in conjunction with the Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel, and Prof. Lowenstein serves as Chair of the Academic Advisory Committee. Within this framework proposals are reviewed for advancing and developing additional services for survivors, most of whom are in their late years in life. Additionally, a special issue of Gerontology was published on the subject, with Prof. Lowenstein serving as guest editor. The issue included an article presenting the findings of a study that was headed by Prof. Lowenstein on the needs and coping of elderly Holocaust survivors during the Second Lebanon War.

Overseas guests

A government delegation from Vietnam engaged in policy and planning services for older adults visited the College and was exposed to the research activity in the College and at the Center and to the array of community services for older adults in Israel. Prof. Lowenstein was subsequently invited to deliver a series of lectures to government officials engaging in the subject. Additionally, two researchers from the Center (Prof. Liora Ore and Dr. Dafna Halperin) went to Vietnam and gave two courses to professionals engaged in working with older adults.

Dr. Jeanne Katz of the Faculty of Health and Social Care at The Open University, UK, visited the College to build research collaborations particularly on the subject of “Solitary older adults and the services they need”. Work on a joint research proposal is ongoing.

Prof. Alfonso-Susa Poza, Director of the Institute for Health Care and Public Management at the University of Hohenheim, Stuttgart, Germany, visited the College and subsequently sent two advanced-degree students to conduct their dissertations under the supervision of lecturers from the Center.

Contact with research institutes and centers in Israel and abroad

The Center maintains work relations and collaborations with the National Insurance Institute of Israel Research Department, as well as with a number of central bodies engaged in policy and developing services, such as the Ministry for Social Equality, ESHEL-The Association for the Planning and Development of Services for the Aged in Israel, and the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel. The Center also maintains ties with the Israel Gerontological Data Center which operates within the School of Social Work and Social Welfare at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

The Center also maintains ties with research centers abroad:

  • Institute for Life Course and Aging, University of Toronto, Canada.
  • Institute for Health Care and Public Management, University of Hohenheim, Stuttgart,
  • Institute of Gerontology, Kings College, London, UK.

The Center has also formed close working relations with the international research community, for example with researchers from the United States at the University of Michigan, Syracuse University, Fordham University in New York, and the University of Southern California, as well as researchers from leading research centers in Europe and Canada. As part of an international team the Center is involved in the activities of the Institute for Life Course and Aging at the University of Toronto, at a center of excellence on formal and informal care of older adults. In this framework Prof. Lowenstein and Dr. Halperin participated in several group workshops on family member caregivers of older adults. Prof. Lowenstein was chosen to represent the international group in the project’s management committee, and was also elected Chair of an Elder Abuse team. She was also invited by the EU to participate in a work group on “Social Exclusion of Older Adults”, and is a member of the steering committee planning a European conference on the subject. The first meeting will take place in April 2016.

Future plans and activities for the benefit of the community

An experimental project at HaEmek Hospital in Afula and at the Scottish Hospital in Nazareth to establish an assistance center for older adult patients that will be operated by volunteer senior citizens. The center will provide assistance to the older adults and their families in exercising their medical rights during their hospitalization, and in reporting to the appropriate bodies in the community following their discharge from hospital. The aim is to create a continuity of care after the older adult has been discharged from hospital, continued care in the community clinics, and if necessary involvement of the community welfare services as well. The project will be jointly coordinated by the Center and the social services in the two hospitals and the community.

An experimental project to form and accompany support groups for family member caregivers of older adults in the workplace (in big organizations). The aim is to help employees/family member caregivers of older adults contend with the pressures of care, and at the same time minimize as much as possible impacting their functioning at work and in the family. The project will be operated by a team from the Center.

Establishing an “Employment Center” for retirees living in the College’s rural and urban environs and who are interested in part-time work, in conjunction with the Jezreel Valley Council and the regional councils. The center will be headed by a member of the Center’s faculty who will contact potential workplaces and coordinate a team of volunteers to respond to requests.

All the projects will be attended by evaluation studies.