Life Begins at…

Dr. Ariella Loewenstein, who chairs the new Dept. of Aging Studies, which offers the only M.A. program in Gerontology in Israel, lists some facts and figures about Israel’s senior population:

*There are currently more than 400 people in Israel age 100 or older.

*There are 22,000 residents who are in their 90s.

*Most old people die from illness, not from old age.

*The retirement age of 65 was set more than one hundred years ago; as a result, there is a gap between this chronological age and the transition to old age, when a person is need of care and the supply of services.

*There is no one definition of “old age”: it may be defined chronologically, socially, biologically, or functionally.

*The average life span has risen by twenty years since 1950. In the year 2020, nearly one third of the population of most of the modern world will be at least 65 years old.

Unfortunately, says Dr. Loewenstein, who also heads the University’s Center for Research and Study of Aging, ageism has a bad name in Israel. She lists these reasons: a lack of experience with “seniors”—many adults in Israel never knew their grandparents; a lack of information, particularly on the heterogeneity of old age; most professionals who have anything to do with old age deal only in its pathology; the media for the most part presents a negative image of old age.

The new department accepted 18 students into its first- year innovative, multidisciplinary graduate program. Students’ backgrounds range from medicine and nursing to administration and architecture. The aim is to prepare a future cadre of professionals to cope with the problems and issues of a growing senior population, to overcome the negative stereotypes of old age, and to find answers through substantive research to issues deriving from the questions of what is old age and what is successful aging.

Euro Grant The European Commission (specifically its Science, Research, and Development Directorate) awarded Dr. Loewenstein and Dr. Ruth Katz (Depts. of Human Services and Sociology) a large grant in the amount of Euro 1,288,350 for their research project, “Old Age and Autonomy: The Role of Service Systems and Intergenerational Family Solidarity.”

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