The NJ Foundation for Aging (NJFA) was established in 1998 with an idea, some stalwart visionaries and the sentiment “of course we can do this.” With a name change in 2021 to "New Jersey Advocates for Aging Well," we are now celebrating 25 years of advocacy, education and leadership that enable older adults to age with dignity and choice here in the Garden State.
Our founders were Executive Directors of County Offices on Aging: Margaret Chester, Susan Chasnoff, Rosemarie Doremus and Carl West, who saw a need for a statewide organization to address the issues they saw in their communities. Those four founding trustees worked with founding Executive Director, Grace Egan to bring NJFA to life.
With its basic organizational infrastructure intact the Foundation could now focus more fully on becoming an effective “voice for social policy.” New Jersey, a big state with a big population of older adults requires – if it’s going to be heard – an appropriately big voice.
To that end, NJFA became what Grace Egan recalls a primary funder saying was needed: “a provocateur, a facilitator, a networker to bring people together”.
In our inaugural year, we hosted the first annual conference for professionals, which addressed topics and concerns raised by the County Offices on Aging and Senior Centers’ staff. National experts have joined us over the last 25 years to offer keynote presentations on emerging trends, the White House Conference on Aging, and the role of arts for healthy aging, just to name a few topics.
And, right out of the gate, NJFA tackled big issues. 1999 (just one year after being established) was the first year that focused on the program that came to be known as Safe Mobility at Any Age. It was conceived to address one of the most important issues for older adults: transportation. Over the course of several years a large stakeholder group met and created a policy report on the topic and continued to convene over time, as well as host forums and educate policy makers.
In 2009, a historic collaboration took place between NJFA and Gerontology Institute, University of Massachusetts Boston and Wider Opportunities for Women with the generous support of The Atlantic Philanthropies. The result of this collaboration was The Elder Economic Security Standard™ Index for New Jersey. The Elder Index work that NJFA started continues to be produced by the NJ Department of Human Services, elevates the need to pursue economic supports that impact everyday quality of life issues. Which is why we continue to work with many of our colleagues on the issues of housing, hunger, caregiver support and much more.
Aging is one of the few things that affect everyone, in every aspect of our lives. NJAAW cannot go it alone. Partners from the academic world, the government arena, the philanthropic realm and community-based programs have made our work possible. We appreciate this vote of confidence and affirmation from partners that we have indeed been on the right path.