From our CEO: How JCA Impacts Social Determinants of Health

JCA building and headshot of Shane Rock

by Shane Rock, JCA CEO

An individual’s health and quality of life are strongly influenced by social, economic, and environmental factors—termed social determinants of health—that include adequate nutritious food, stable and sufficient income, safe and affordable housing, reliable transportation, social connectedness, access to quality health care, and a safe neighborhood. Older adults who struggle with these factors may face significant challenges in living independently, aging in place, and thriving in their later years.

Economic security strongly affects an older adult’s ability to age in place. A 2018 AARP survey found that nearly 23% of people 50+ years found it somewhat or very difficult to pay their monthly living expenses. Only 23% percent of older adults were confident they had enough money for retirement.  56% of low-income older adults were concerned they would not be able to afford to maintain or stay in their homes.

The risk of death or chronic conditions in older adults increases with loneliness and isolation. More than 1 in 5 older adults in the AARP survey reported feeling frequently or often lonely. Nearly one in three low-income older adults were concerned about their social connectedness as compared with 18% of those with higher incomes. Fully 41% of those living alone feared they would not be able to remain independent as they age.

JCA’s services positively impact an older adult’s social determinants of health, helping older adults maintain independence, dignity, and joy.

The JCA Senior HelpLine helps older adults and their families to connect with needed services in each of the social determinants of health offered both through JCA and other community resources.

A stable income that provides enough money to cover daily expenses is essential to an older adult’s ability to thrive. JCA’s employment services—the Senior Community Service Employment Program, Career Gateway, and 50+ Employment Expos—assist older adults in retraining, retooling, and re-engaging in meaningful and rewarding work that supports their economic security, food security and nutrition.

JCA’s State Health Information Program (SHIP) provides Montgomery County seniors and adults under 65 with long-term disabilities with health insurance counseling, enrollment guidance, and assistance and problem resolution for issues relating to Medicare benefits and other public and private health insurance sources. SHIP increases access to affordable, quality health care.

As we age, many of us have fewer connections to friends and family, sometimes leading to social isolation and profound loneliness. JCA’s Heyman Interages® program connects students to isolated older adults, lessening the loneliness and isolation. The program also offers opportunities for older adults to mentor public school students, providing meaningful volunteer opportunities that are rewarding for the mentor and mentee. Memory loss can also isolate older adults. JCA’s Kensington Clubs offer supportive group activities for older adults with early-stage dementia.

Diminished transportation options can isolate and prevent older adults from thriving. JCA offers a variety of transportation options including bus transportation to Montgomery County’s Senior Centers, Connect-A-Ride ride referrals utilizing private transportation services, NVRides ride referrals in partnership with the Pozez JCC in Northern Virginia, support for VillageRides senior village transportation services, and escorted transportation.

JCA’s professional staff and highly trained volunteers offer essential services help older adults and their families address social determinants of health, improving the quality of life for older adults in the Washington, D.C. region, and helping more older adults age and thrive in place.