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Planning for a bright future in aging

Although aging issues have always represented an important funding area for the Jewish Heritage Foundation (JHF), not until recently did they become a high priority focus.

When an analysis of the grantmaking of 16 funding agencies and foundations in the Kansas City metropolitan area found that support for older adult services represented only a small fraction of dollars awarded, JHF recognized an opportunity.

The Foundation had always funded Jewish organizations serving older adults rather extensively, but here was a chance to expand its efforts to the broader community—to bring on new partners, including the government and private sector, and address the increasingly important issue of aging.

Demographic projections showed that the number of people age 65+ in Greater Kansas City would double over the next 20 years. Someone needed to raise awareness of this demographic shift and build a coordinated effort to address the challenges an aging community would bring. As a result, in 2006, the Foundation’s board approved the Older Adult Grant Program (OAGP) for a period of five years. It focused on projects and services that would enable older adults to age in place. With this initiative came innovation, partnerships, and opportunities to create a community for all ages in Greater Kansas City.

The Heartland EngAGEment Initiative

EngAGEment was a three-year initiative designed to raise awareness of aging-related issues among philanthropic and thought leaders throughout the greater Kansas City region. Grantmakers In Aging, through The Atlantic Philanthropies, originally funded the initiative, led by Nonprofit Connect, with matching funds of $5,000 from the Jewish Heritage Foundation, John Knox Village Foundation, and W. J. Brace Charitable Trust, Bank of America Trustee.

Through EngAGEment, a design team, composed of 17 funders, and an advisory council, made up of 20 civic leaders and community volunteers, worked diligently to build awareness of the large and growing impact aging demographics would have on all sectors—public, private and nonprofit—and the need to prepare for this transition.

Click to watch JHF’s EngAGEment video.

JHF’s EngAGEment’s strategy to involve opinion leaders as influencers gave the Mid-American Regional Council (MARC) a seamless way to take a regional leadership role in the aging arena. With JHF support, MARC has convened regional stakeholders to: (1) develop an implementation plan for caregiving, health care, housing, transportation/mobility and social/civic engagement; (2) identify an ongoing system to organize and sustain this work over time; and (3) work with others in the community to raise awareness of aging as a regional priority.

Mobility for an older population

One key question in developing a Greater Kansas City community for all ages—how to sustain mobility for its older residents—led to the creation of the Framework for Senior Mobility.  With an initial planning grant of $40,000, JHF supported the development of a strategic plan for communities to create and expand transit solutions that benefit older adults. The plan described communication strategies that would raise regional awareness of the current and rapidly growing needs of older adults for mobility. These strategies included educational public presentations and the formation of a Senior Mobility Advisory Network. A major outcome of the Framework was to incorporate a senior mobility plan into the 2040 Long Range Transportation plan. Following the Framework grant, JHF continued to award grants for data collection and research related to mobility and for the development of the Greater Mobility Network Web site.

The Framework has become model for other communities. What began as a collaborative effort of community leaders, government officials, transportation professionals, nonprofit leaders, and community researchers to focus on transportation options has evolved to address a wider range of ways in which the mobility of people, goods, and services affects the region’s seniors’ quality of life.

Over the past five years, JHF has awarded just over $1.3 million in aging-related grants that support services, capacity building, community planning, and research. JHF’s focus on older adults— through its leadership and funding support—has been pivotal to Kansas City’s progress in creating a community for all ages.


Help us pursue our mission and strengthen grantmaking to support the needs and potential of older people.