Silver Century Foundation Grantmaking
SCF provides grants for projects that will further our mission or reinforce our initiatives.
|•||We support efforts to combat ageism—for instance, a program designed to challenge medical students’ worst-case assumptions about their older patients.|
|•||We’re especially concerned about ageism in the media and the detrimental images of older people so often seen in films, television and elsewhere. To counteract those negative portrayals, our photo gallery, for example, features images likely to change the way we see aging.|
|•||We support projects that will help older individuals stay active and healthy, such as strategies to improve their transportation options.|
We also fund efforts to help people who are facing financial insecurity in later life.
In the first years after SCF was founded, our grantmaking focused on safe mobility for people of all ages. We’re convinced that quality of life depends on being able to get around, and we know that as people age, they can become isolated and depressed if they are no longer able to drive.
In 2010 as the recession dragged on, SCF began to move into other areas. We became concerned about the financial challenges facing older Americans, particularly women and racial and ethnic minorities, who generally have fewer financial resources.
SCF Grants, 2011-2012
Mentors for Med Students
Our major grant for 2011 funded a two-year program, created by New Jersey’s Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, that will enlist older people to serve as mentors for second-year medical students.
Studies have found that many med students have negative ideas about aging and assume that patients in their later years will be difficult to deal with and time-consuming to care for. This is a stereotype, though it’s based partly on the students’ experience: medical school exposes them mainly to elders who are very ill and confined to hospitals or other care facilities.
The mentors who participate in the program live in the community. Students will visit them at home to take a medical history, review recommended therapies and get to know them. In the process, the future physicians will learn something about what healthy aging and ordinary elders are like and see how older people adapt to their environment as they age and how their financial situations impact their health.
The Elder Economic Security Index
In 2012, SCF will fund a second-phase study of older people’s economic well-being as measured by the Elder Economic Security Index.
The Elder Index was developed by Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW), a Washington, DC, nonprofit, working with the Gerontology Institute at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. Both organizations knew the federal poverty guidelines are outdated. Devised in the 1960s, the guidelines are based solely on the cost of food, yet they determine who is eligible for government safety-net programs. They ignore the costs of housing and health care, for example, which swallow up a much bigger portion of most people’s incomes. The guidelines also disregard the fact that basic living expenses are much higher in some parts of the country than in others. The Elder Index calculates, state by state and county by county, what people 65 and older who are aging in place must pay for their essentials: housing, health care, food, transportation and other basic necessities. WOW has gathered data for 17 states so far. In each, a local partner collected and organized the research—in New Jersey, that was the New Jersey Foundation for Aging.
The result: a report published in 2009, which concluded that the bare minimum seniors needed to age in place (the Elder Index) in New Jersey was way above the 2008 federal poverty guideline of $10,400 a year for one person or $14,000 for a couple.
Most older Americans who are financially strapped are women. In general, they earn less than men and have less in savings because many drop out of the workforce to care for family. Women also tend to live longer and to develop chronic health problems. That’s why in 2012, SCF will fund a new state study to collect data on the Elder Index broken down by gender.
With support from an SCF grant, the Princeton Senior Resource Center (PSRC) has developed a website to help workers in midlife and beyond find employment, a project that addresses our concern about the growing number of people aging into an insecure financial future.
Since the recession began in 2008, many older workers have lost their jobs or had their pensions reduced, while others who had retired have found that, for financial reasons, they need to go back to work. PSRC’s new website serves as a hub for workshops, lectures, support groups and other programs the senior center offers. It also provides people who are eager to offer their skills and services to the community at large with links to volunteer opportunities.
In 2011, SCF funding enabled the New Jersey Foundation for Aging to produce the first three broadcasts of a cable show called Aging Insights, which provides information about resources available for New Jersey residents who are middle-aged and older. This monthly program follows in the footsteps of Middlesex (NJ) County’s Aging Today and is available on public access stations across the state.
The Culture Bus
In Princeton, NJ, the public library, the Arts Council and the McCarter Theatre, as well as other local organizations, give the Princeton Senior Resource Center free event tickets for residents of the town’s affordable senior housing. The problem: most of the residents don’t own a car or don’t drive at night.
An SCF grant will provide funds for transportation, reflecting our continuing concern about mobility for older people. In 2012, a “culture bus” will bring residents to 15 events, providing them with physical and mental stimulation, plus a chance to feel independent and part of the community.
Developing an Economy for the Future
We cosponsored a symposium on “Developing an Economy for the Future,” organized by the National Council for Research on Women. During this meeting, we spoke about the issues that confront midlife and older women. The symposium’s other sponsors were the Ms. Foundation for Women, the New York Women’s Foundation, the Women’s Funding Network, the Women of Color Policy Network, and the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University.
Professional Education Conferences
Since 2003, SCF has helped to sponsor a number of conferences in New Jersey that have brought together specialists in the aging field to discuss transportation, housing, care management, successful aging and other important issues.
Previous SCF Grants
The Transportation Dilemma
In its early years, SCF focused on the issue of mobility for older people. Because Americans today live so long, most eventually have to give up driving—some outlive their ability to drive by as much as 10 years. In suburbs and rural areas where there’s little or no public transportation, nondrivers lose their independence. Small wonder, then, that some people go on driving even when they’re no longer safe behind the wheel.
Concerned about these issues, we awarded several grants to ITNAmerica, a national nonprofit that grew out of a highly successful local initiative in Portland, ME. Since 1995, ITNPortland has provided affordable rides—24 hours a day, 7 days a week—to people 65 and older, and to those who are visually impaired, using cars driven by volunteers or paid workers.
In 2003, ITN went national as ITNAmerica. By 2011, it had affiliates in 23 communities and was starting to expand overseas. It’s different from other senior transportation systems because it helps persuade older people to stop driving (when they should) by giving them a viable alternative, and because it uses private automobiles rather than the vans and buses that seniors often shun because they’re difficult to board.
Since its founding, ITNAmerica has researched the complex problems surrounding senior transportation. Between 2005 and 2011, SCF gave the organization three research grants.
1. State Laws and Transportation Policies
In 2010 and 2011, SCF funded a major study to expand private transportation options for seniors. In all 50 states, researchers inventoried barriers and incentives to developing services such as ITN. A major barrier exists, for example, in places where auto insurance companies refuse to issue liability insurance if people drive their cars as volunteers. Some states have now passed laws forbidding such restrictions.
The study identified model legislation and presents it on a searchable website that also includes a state-by-state inventory of barriers and incentives to transportation systems that use private cars.
2. Driver Evaluations
Drivers who aren’t sure whether they’re still safe behind the wheel sometimes consult an expert for advice. In 2008, SCF supported an ITNAmerica pilot study designed to find out whether those who are ultimately advised to stop driving are more receptive to the news if they’re given information about alternative transportation.
ITN’s researchers enlisted individuals who sometimes do driver evaluations—doctors, specially trained occupational therapists and driving instructors—and asked them to include information about transportation alternatives in their consultations. They reported that older drivers responded more positively when told about alternatives early in the process—before they were advised to stop driving. It also helped to have a supportive family member present.
3. Driver Evaluations by Doctors
Research indicates that people are more willing to listen to a doctor than to family members when their driving ability has been called into question, but some physicians shy away from the subject. With SCF funding, ITNAmerica conducted a pilot study in 2007, testing two approaches to the problem.
A conference in Portland, ME, offered geriatricians a workshop on how to assess a patient’s ability to drive. The presenters explained what the law required of health-care providers who were consulted on the driving question and described local transportation options for older people.
Three months later, researchers contacted the participants and found that roughly 70 percent were now more likely to talk to patients about the need to give up driving and to describe transportation alternatives during those discussions. In short, the training and the fact that the doctors could make constructive suggestions (it wasn’t all bad news) made them more comfortable about tackling the subject.
ITNAmerica National Summit Meeting
In 2003, ITNAmerica received a $25 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration for a rollout of its model program across the country, the first step toward creating a sustainable, national, nonprofit, transportation service for older adults. In October 2005, ITN held a summit meeting that brought together transportation experts and representatives from interested communities and philanthropies to discuss the rollout. The meeting cosponsors included AARP, the Winter Park Health Foundation, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and the Silver Century Foundation.
Policy Forums: Safe Mobility at Any Age
Between 2003 and 2005, SCF helped to support six forums organized to explore safe-mobility issues in New Jersey. State policy makers attended, along with people who worked in health or senior services agencies, law enforcement and transportation. Panels of experts described model programs and best practices related to older drivers. They addressed questions such as: How can the state identify high-risk drivers? What can families do when an unsafe driver refuses to give up the car keys? Can highways and cars be redesigned for greater safety?
The final report on the series, Safe Mobility at Any Age, was widely read and highly regarded. The forums launched a dialogue between participants that continues to this day with annual meetings of stakeholders.
The Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University and the New Jersey Foundation for Aging organized the forums. Additional funding was provided by SCF, together with the AAA-NJ Automobile Club, the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, the Thomas and Theresa Berry Foundation and the Wallerstein Foundation for Geriatric Life Improvement.
At this time, SCF does not accept unsolicited proposals for funding. Periodically, we send out requests for proposals (RFPs) to organizations and individuals, inviting them to submit ideas for specific projects.
The Silver Century Foundation promotes a positive view of aging. The Foundation challenges entrenched and harmful stereotypes, encourages dialogue between generations, advocates planning for the second half of life, and raises awareness to educate and inspire everyone to live long, healthy, empowered lives.
"It is not by muscle, speed, or physical dexterity that great things are achieved, but by reflection, force of character, and judgment; in these qualities old age is usually not poorer, but is even richer."
Cicero (106-43 BC)