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Upgrades for Jerusalem's grandparents

by ben June 16 2008
Municipal newsCity planning

An elderly Jerusalemite enjoys a sunny day downtown

Jerusalemite has a special love for our city's elderly. They can tell great stories about having been in the very center of previous generations' historic Jerusalem events, and they have a tendency to wear suits in the summer.

Recently, Gil Pensioners Party MK Rafi Eitan, who serves not only as the cabinet's Minister of Pensioner Affairs but also its Minister of Jerusalem Affairs, announced that together with the Social Security administration (Bituach Leumi) and other related authorities of the federal government (nothing has been announced as coming from Jerusalem's city call), he has succeeded in securing a budget of 72 million NIS for the purpose of updating the nation's network of hostels for the elderly over the next five years.

Government-run and -subsidized institutions where qualifying old people can have their own apartments and some medical support, the "hostels" will receive 32,000 NIS per dwelling unit, a budget that should cover infrastructure renovations, as well as buying fire safety equipment, establishing lounge spaces, installing elevators, retaining additional staff and other measures that read like necessities. Hey, with private nightlife spots like Gotham springing up all the time in Jerusalem, it's about time the caned set got some "lounges" of their own.

Locally, the work is set to begin immediately at a Gilo hostel, where two million NIS of the total budget is supposed to be spent (the remaining 70 million NIS will be split between 15 other municipalities).

Gilo might be a logical place to start work, but recent census data indicate that while 8 percent of Jerusalem's overall population is aged 65 or more, in the city center, this figure leaps to 20 percent.

With plenty going on in terms of culture, academics and the arts – not to mention astonishingly high birth rates among the Muslim and ultra-Orthodox Jewish sectors – Jerusalem is a city known for intense youth and vibrancy. But she's also an aging city, with the Jewish population revealing especially noteworthy numbers: Those aged 65 or more constituted less than nine percent of the Jerusalem's Jews through the mid-Eighties, but the city's subsequent youth drain and influx of elderly immigrants has meant that this sector has swelled to the point where it's expected to exceed 11 percent by the end of 2008.

With all of the buzz in recent years over maintaining the city's precious demographic balances, Jerusalemite proposes that ethnic divides have the potential to be less alarming issues over time than age-group divides: With a little more investment in cultural initiatives for the city's 20-somethings (to keep them from fleeing to Tel Aviv), and with a little more investment in infrastructure for the elderly (to keep them comfortable), some of these other issues might just work themselves out.

Photo of an old man enjoying a summer day in downtown Jerusalem courtesy of sethfrantzman from flickr under a creative commons license.

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