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A Guide for Accessory Dwelling Units: Getting Started

By: Sevki Topcu, Co Founder, HAVEN

More and more people are adding accessory dwelling units to their homes these days and for good reason! ADUs offer a host of benefits, from added income and increased property value to more space and privacy. If you’re thinking of adding an ADU to your home, this guide will tell you everything you need to know to get started.

1. What are accessory dwelling units and why are they becoming more popular?

Accessory dwelling units, also known as mother-in-law apartments, are becoming an increasingly popular way for homeowners to add value to their property. There are a number of reasons why they are gaining in popularity. First, they offer various benefits, from added income and increased property value to more space and privacy. Second, they are a great way to utilize underutilized space in your home. And finally, they can be a great investment, providing a steady stream of income for years to come.

2. The benefits of adding an ADU to your home

ADUs provide extra space for family members, visiting friends, and in-laws.

More and more homeowners are looking for alternatives to typical assisted living or elderly care facilities for an aging parent or loved one. ADUs allow aging parents to stay close to their families while keeping their independence in their own small homes within steps of caretakers.

ADUs can be rented long-term or short-term as independent units for extra income. This additional income not only can pay for the cost of the ADU itself but also provide additional cash flow to homeowners.

3. ADU Regulations

If you’re thinking of adding an ADU to your home, the first step is to research your local zoning regulations. This is important because you need to make sure that you are allowed to build an ADU on your property. If you have ever had to look up your local zoning regulations, you know that they are often lengthy and full of technical jargon. Sometimes the regulations may be hard to decipher.

In addition to the applicable Zoning Regulations, there may be other regulations depending on where you live that may impact the feasibility of building an ADU. For instance, if you are septic and/or well users, the Department of Health may restrict additional construction or require upgrading your septic system.

However, there are a few resources available at your disposal to help with this process:

  • Your municipality’s zoning code enforcer: If you are just curious whether ADUs are allowed in your area, calling your Zoning Department might be the easiest way to find out. Information specific to your property might be harder to acquire with a short phone call as it often requires a couple of hours of work to determine eligibility for ADUs.
  • Haven ADUs has a digestible version of ADU-related regulations on our website. Check it out and let us know if your city is not listed, we are always adding more cities to our database.

4. How to Finance your ADU project

There are a few different ways that you can finance your ADU project. You can take out a home equity loan, HELOC, construction loan, or cash-out refinance. Each option has its own set of pros and cons that you should consider before taking out a loan.

Home Equity Loan: A home equity loan is a second mortgage on your home. You can use the equity in your home to finance the construction of your ADU. The biggest advantage of taking out a home equity loan is that you will have a fixed interest rate for the life of the loan. This can help you budget for your project as you will know exactly how much your monthly payments will be. Home equity loans offer an attractive way to get access to extra cash when you need it, but they come at a price. The interest rates on these types of lending are usually higher than your first mortgage and there are also several other fees that may be associated with them such as appraisal or closing costs for example.

HELOC:  With a HELOC, you can borrow against the equity in your home and get a revolving line of credit. This can be a good option if you are not sure how much money you will need for your project or if you need the flexibility to pay for other expenses during the construction process. The advantage of a HELOC is that you only have to pay interest on the amount of money that you borrow. The downside is that HELOCs often have variable interest rates which can make budgeting for your project more difficult.

It’s important to note that most lenders are likely to lend up to 85% of the value of your home, minus your first mortgage. If you have recently purchased your home and have not built up much equity, a HELOC may not provide you with enough money to finance the construction of an ADU.

Cash-Out Refinance: A cash-out refinance is a type of refinancing that allows you to borrow against the equity you have built up in your home to finance the construction of an ADU. This option will consolidate the finance needed for construction and your first mortgage into a single loan. However, it does require that you have built-up equity in your home in order to qualify. With most cash-out refinances, you will only be able to tap into up to 80% of your home’s current value. Additionally, you will likely face closing costs and higher interest rates than with other financing options. As a result, a cash-out refinance may not be the best option unless you are able to significantly lower your interest rate.

Construction Loan: A construction loan is a short-term loan that is used to finance the construction of your ADU. Construction loans typically have higher interest rates than other types of loans. Once the construction of your ADU is complete, you can then refinance the loan into a more traditional mortgage.

Lastly, there are new loan products out there that would lend you money based on the future value of your property, after your ADU is completed. These types of products are perfect for new homeowners who have not built enough equity to use HELOC or Home Equity Loan options. So if you are interested in this option, make sure to mention it during your initial consultation call and we will connect you with our financing partners!

Whether you are looking to add more space for family or friends, or just looking to generate income from the land you already own, ADUs are a great option to make the most out of your property. Haven also offers free consultation as a first step in exploring ADUs as an option for you. Visit our website for information https://havenadus.com to learn more.

Guide to Home Renovations for Older Adults

Your home is the place where you should be the most comfortable. It’s important for seniors to have a home that is safe, comfortable, and hospitable. If you’ve lived in the same house for years, you’ve likely already added your own touch to the design, but as time goes on, you might need to make some changes. Here are a few ideas to help you live safely and comfortably as you age.

Safety-Related Renovations

As you grow older, home safety precautions should become more of a priority. Each year, thousands of older adults experience devastating falls that affect their mobility for the rest of their lives. Often these falls occur right in the home. Luckily, falls in the home are one of the most preventable problems, and one of the easiest ways to prevent these injuries is to install non-slip flooring that is easier to grip on to with bare feet or socks.

Another renovation that is a necessity for those who are wheelchair bound is ramps throughout the home. Even if you have an at home nurse that can help guide you up and down the stairs, it’s much safer to have ramps installed to prevent any mishaps from happening. This also allows you to have more freedom in your own home as you become less mobile. If you don’t live in a ranch style home, you might also consider chairlifts to easily access different floors of your home without risking a fall.

Renovating the kitchen area or any storage areas with high cupboards is also something to consider. If you have to dangerously balance to reach items at high places, you’re risking a fall. Redesigning those areas with more reachable storage spaces will help you have an easier and safer time accessing items in your home. Also, make sure that any entrances into your home are easily accessible and minimize tripping hazards.

Comfort-Related Renovations

Safety shouldn’t be the only concern when it comes to renovating your personal space. You should be able to enjoy upgrades that add comfort as well. Living room additions that add more space are great for having friends and family come to visit. Also related to safety, renovating your bathrooms can add to the comfort of your home. Making the toilets and showers easily accessible with plenty of handles for easy access brings you comfort and safety. If you want to avoid slips in the bathroom as much as possible, there are walk-in tubs that are easy to get in and out of and allow much more room. Unlike a traditional bathtub where you likely have to step over the side to enter, a walk in allows you to open a door to enter, making it much more safe and comfortable.

Another comfort related upgrade to your home could be in your outdoor areas like your garden or deck. Having a nice outside space allows you to host family gatherings during the summer months and to spend more time outside. If you enjoy gardening, you could make a stand up garden, which will allow you to garden without having to bend down. If you have an extreme greenthumb, you could have a small greenhouse built, which will allow you to garden throughout the whole year. You deserve to live comfortably during your retirement years, so make sure you make the necessary renovations to make that possible.

Keep Costs In Mind

As a retiree, you’ll want to be careful of how much money you spend on these upgrades since the costs can start to add up. If you do decide to fund these projects with a loan, just be aware of the required credit score for a personal loan and what you’ll likely qualify for. Assuming you have your house in your will, you’ll want your family to inherit a nice house without the added stress of any of the debts you have left over. Cut back on the bigger renovations if you have to and focus on the work that is most vital to your safety in the home.

Guest Room Renovation

Having a guest room is important for when you have family over or when you have someone staying more permanently to take care of you. Updating the look by repainting or replacing old furniture can help provide a more comfortable space for guests.

At the end of the day, your safety should always come first. It’s important to make sure that your home renovations ensure your safety throughout your home. Then you can add comfort upgrades afterwards.

Virtual Age-Friendly Fair Highlights Path to Better NJ

More than 260 people – including key government, business, non-profit and academic leaders -participated in New Jersey’s Age-Friendly Virtual Fair, a first-of-its-kind showcase of the diverse work underway to make the Garden State a better place to grow old.

The Sept. 15 virtual conference featured 34 virtual “table” presentations on myriad subjects that encompass or align with age-friendly efforts – from snapshot looks at strategies to improve transportation, housing, social inclusion, communication and collaboration within a community to detailed examinations of how New Jersey’s physical infrastructure, social support services and elder-care systems can be redesigned to better support aging in place.

Among the dignitaries who offered remarks as part of the event was Kaylee McGuire, New Jersey’s Deputy Commissioner for the Department of Human Services who spoke of her agency’s ongoing work to develop and launch a blueprint for age-friendly communities across the state.

“Together, through age-friendly work, we can develop and enhance outdoor spaces, transportation, affordable housing, social networks, employment opportunities, communication, and community health services,” McGuire said. “The Department envisions a New Jersey where all generations can thrive together.”

The virtual fair was planned by a multi-organizational team, including the Rutgers School of Social Work in partnership with New Jersey Advocates for Aging Well, a non-profit advocacy group whose executive director Cathy Rowe was among the early age-friendly community leaders in the state. Grotta Fund for Senior Care and The Henry and Marilyn Taub Foundation – two foundations that helped fund and form the Age-Friendly North Jersey alliance.

“NJAAW has been a strong supporter of age friendly communities for over a decade now, and we are thrilled to see not only the progress but the momentum that is building in this area. Having worked for 4 years building age-friendly efforts in South Orange and Maplewood, I understand both the excitement and challenges communities face. This virtual fair really opened up opportunities for people to connect, learn and see the possibilities they can bring to their communities”  Cathy Rowe

The goal of the event was to encourage collaboration and idea-sharing among the myriad players involved in age-friendly work, a list that includes community leaders, service providers, older residents, government officials, planners, developers, students, educators, community groups, funders, and more.

“Based on years of research, practice, and advocacy, we know that singular age-friendly programs, projects, groups, and community initiatives can be incredibly powerful on their own,” said Dr. Emily Greenfield, professor of social work at Rutgers. “But they have even greater chance for long-term and equitable impact when done in harmony with those of others.’

 Participation by a number of state lawmakers, Murphy Administration officials, county government and municipal leaders is encouraging because age-friendly strategies must be adopted at all levels of government – and across all government divisions – in partnership with the private sector.

“Environmental and climate changes, transportation infrastructure, affordable housing development, property tax policies, design of parks and other public spaces, election outcomes, public health safety, Medicaid spending – decisions made across all of these sectors can make or break our ability to age with health and dignity in the communities of our choice – for the current generation of older adults and the multitudes to follow, “ said Julia Stoumbos, director of aging in place programs for the Taub Foundation. “More and more people in younger generations will be living to ages 100 and beyond and our community infrastructure must be designed with this in mind.

Leaders of the Age-Friendly North Jersey alliance work in regular partnership with a number of organizations in the state that play a lead role in aging issues. Representatives of many of those organizations – such as AARP New Jersey, New Jersey Future, Justice in Aging, and Corporation for Supportive Housing -, led presentations at the virtual fair.

“It was gratifying to partner with the Henry and Marilyn Taub Foundation, NJAAW, and Rutgers University and to showcase the local, county, state and national leaders and supportive dignitaries who are enthusiastically and collaboratively encouraging ways of better aging in New Jersey,” said Renie Carniol, director of The Grotta Fund. “As a funder in Northern New Jersey, we are pleased to foster so many positive outcomes from our Age-Friendly community grantees and others. We are eager to hear about how this information spurs new leaders, networks, initiatives, and policies in our state that will optimize and enhance quality of life as people age.”

Click here to view the program and other supporting materials for the virtual fair.


End of Life Doulas – Compassionate Support and Expert Guidance for Your Family Through the Sacred Journey of Aging and End of Life

By Adrian Allotey
Eldercare Specialist/Aging Companion/End of Life Doula
You Are Not Alone Elder Care LLC

Clinically managed end of life care is increasingly becoming a hot topic for discussion. Providing care for fragile elderly patients nearing their transition from this world goes beyond learned skills. Medical personnel responsible for providing this specialized care must have an innate sense of attention and dedication to the entire process, the humanistic part in particular. Despite the countless legal and ethical concerns associated with end of life advocacy, the family, patient, and in my case, end of life doula’s role as advocates all come to play here. With ten percent of all US healthcare spending going into the end of life care, it proves why many Americans are increasingly becoming interested in experiencing a period of care before death.

How End of Life Advocacy Has Been Transformed

Since the 20th century, and with advancements in science, medicine, and medical engineering, health professionals have occupied a lot of space where the family and community formerly filled. Care for a dying patient can be managed and made less painful with innovative medical technology. An end of life doula can also have prominence in cases such as these by advocating through the entire transition process.  

For years, end of life doulas have researched ways to enhance the quality of life for all parties involved in the various stages leading to the death of the patient. For this reason, advocacy is a fundamental feature of end of life care. The assistance and sensitive care provided in this period can assist in determining the quality of end of life. More importantly, this relationship is dependent on support and information from the person who is passing and their medical team. 

What Happens to The Patient During End of Life Care?

Patients can exhibit total dependency traits, powerlessness, and helplessness in their final moments. Some may lose continence, the ability to speak, or exercise self-control. This is where advocacy begins. The  end of life doula can represent them and communicate their wishes. It becomes even more crucial when the patient’s initial diagnosis rapidly declines.  

Hopefully by this time, patients have taken steps to create advanced directives for their end of life decisions; giving explicit consent for medical choices if and when the time comes.  The patient may authorize a surviving spouse, child, or family member to make these final decisions on their behalf. Admittedly, these are tough decisions to make and may require end of life doula intervention and support.

Ethical Dilemmas

Although the reasons for end of life care are justifiable, they still have ethical dilemmas. There are problems with compromised patient self-sufficiency and communication failures. Meanwhile, of great concern is the issue of symptoms management. It usually brings up the inquiry of whether symptom reliefs prevail over likely risks and side effects.

Shared decision making can also be of great concern. It happens when more than one person is involved in the final choices. Indeed, it has been noted that significant others may fight against the patient’s wishes. However, the crucial choice should be a sign of respect to the dying individual.

Advanced Directives such as the medical power of attorney, “Do Not Resuscitate”  and POST form are vital elements to discuss before the patient gets worse and cannot make decisions. Advocacy at the end of life has come to stay, and more Americans are beginning to see it as a means to a decent and comfortable death.

Lifelong Learning Can Lead to Lifelong Wellness

Education doesn’t have an end date. In fact, it shouldn’t. And while education in the formal sense can be limited to an institutional understanding of the word, lifelong learning is expansive and flexible. Learning to paint with acrylics, analyzing films from the 20th century, discovering an unknown event from history, or how to use photoshop are all forms of education—and are fun! There’s no limit to what and how you can learn, and lifelong learning can be experienced in or out of the classroom.  

Lifelong learning is a privilege that does not have to be cut off at a certain age. Studies have shown that learning, particularly learning new skills, improves cognitive function, especially in aging populations and just as we care for our bodies as we age, we need to care for our minds. Anything that flexes the brain will boast extraordinary benefits to our wellbeing.  

Individuals over 50 who are looking for an opportunity to expand their horizons, learn in an engaging environment, and meet new friends will find it at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Rutgers University (OLLI-RU). We offer noncredit education that is stimulating, friendly, and informal–there are no tests and no grades! Students will be part of a learning community that is full of diversity, insight, wisdom, intellectual and cultural stimulation, and friendship. We offer a variety of affordable classes in multiple locations—New Brunswick, Freehold, and virtually– and run four sessions per year. 

Our instructors are skilled in their field, some having PhD degrees or decades-long experience working in what they’re teaching. For example, Judge Barnett Hoffman, who is currently teaching the popular “Dateline: Criminal Cases of Middlesex County” class has served as judge for twenty years. Another favored class, the “Poetry Workshop”, is taught by Maxine Susman who has published six chapbooks and holds a PhD in English from Cornell University. And the accolades don’t end there! OLLI-RU consistently evaluates its courses and instructors in order to present the best learning opportunities for our students. Our members of the Advisory Council are active members in the OLLI-RU community, some having been with the lifelong learning program since its conception at Rutgers University. 

OLLI-RU is one of the 125 Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes across the nation. More than 170,000 people nationwide are members of Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes and here at Rutgers University, OLLI-RU continues to promote the nationwide philosophy of catering to the meet the needs and interests of our community. Our close-knit staff dedicate their time to making sure that the program runs smoothly—from hiring instructors to the registration process. We love talking with the OLLI-RU community and are available to assist participants with any questions or feedback they may have. 

Learning for the sake of learning is not the only benefit of participating in a class. A report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) found that that nearly one fourth of people 65 and older are considered to be socially isolated and numerous health risks accompany it. This is a significant issue that can be addressed through community-based activities. A benefit of lifelong learning, particularly in the classroom, is aiding in the creation of a community. Those with similar interests can meet like-minded people while learning something new. Many students at OLLI-RU have formed friendships while taking classes such as “Yoga for Comfort and Relaxation”, “Buddhist Art of South and Southeast Asia”, and “The 50s: Rock Pioneers. OLLI-RU” also hosts one-day classes such as “Classic Italian Cheeses and their Ancient Roman Influences” and “The Art of Forest Bathing”. 

Lifelong learning is an enjoyable way to learn something new, take care of your health, and make new friends while building community. Opportunities for the aging population to learn are endless and thanks to OLLI-RU, are easy to access. Now is the best time to pick up a paintbrush, turn on your computer, open a book, and join a class to explore new terrains that are waiting for you! Find more information on our website: olliru.rutgers.edu

Home is where the heart is

by NJAAW Executive Director Cathy Rowe, DrPH

I recently had a discussion with one of my oldest and best friends. Both of her parents, who no longer drive, are facing physical challenges as they age in their bi-level home in the suburbs.

My friend and her siblings help with doctors’ appointments, meals and whatever else possible, while working, raising their kids and doing the things we all need to do.

When I suggested that my friend look into getting help, she immediately replied, “I am not sending my parents to a nursing home!”

This was the inspiration for NJAAW’s Housing Series webinars in February.

I will leave my friend’s name out, just in case she is reading this blog, but I think her reaction is one that many people have because they are not aware of the range of housing options for older adults.

There isn’t one large leap from living independently in one’s home to needing assisted living — there are numerous steps and choices.

There isn’t one large leap from living independently in one’s home to needing assisted living – there are numerous steps and choices.

Housing needs are not clear-cut nor consistent. There are a continuum of needs, finances, preferences and opportunities.

Housing is likely the biggest investment most of us will ever make — our home becomes a place we can call our sanctuary, and build memories. As such, the “where” and “how” we live are among the most important decisions we make. And these decisions cannot — or should not — be made suddenly or in a moment of crisis.

According to statistics, more than 23% of NJ’s total population is over 60 — and by the year 2030, all Baby Boomers will be of retirement age. Additionally, studies show that the majority of adults 50+ wish to remain in their homes and/or communities as long as possible, with a sense of independence and connection.

We need to spend time educating ourselves about available options, planning in advance for adapting our current home, exploring our next home and preparing for change.

We need to spend time educating ourselves about available options, planning in advance for adapting our current home, exploring our next home and preparing for change.

For all of these reasons, we are hosting the NJAAW Housing Series, bringing together experts in the realm of NJ housing to explore options at each stage and need, to help you make informed decisions for yourself or for the older adults in your life.

The series takes place online on consecutive Wednesdays in February at 4 p.m.

Speakers will explain strategies to help you stay in your homes with modifications and built design. They will also discuss options for getting help in the home, downsizing and when assisted and supportive living becomes necessary.

You’ll find more information at njaaw.org/events. Please register once for Zoom links to all four sessions Those who register will also have on-demand access to session recordings.

Special thanks to our sponsors for letting us provide this series at no cost to NJ residents: Raise the Roof Sponsors Parker Health Group, Inc. and Horizon Blue Cross and Blue Shield of NJ, Build the Walls Sponsors AARP NJ and New Jersey Relay & CapTel and Lay the Foundation Sponsor Springpoint.

I hope you can join us!

I’m proud of you, New Jersey!

As we wind up 2021, I just want to take a moment to say I’m proud of you, New Jersey! Now, with all the jokes made about the great Garden State, you might not be used to the compliment, but here is why I am proud of our older residents, in particular.

New Jersey was hit hard early in the pandemic and suffered tremendous loss of life.

When we started 2021, we were on the edge of our seats waiting for the COVID vaccine and a return to normalcy. It was a frantic rollout but once the supply caught up with demand, the older residents in New Jersey led the way in getting vaccinated.

December 15 is the anniversary of the first COVID-19 vaccinations being administered in the state of New Jersey. According to multiple reports, Garden State residents age 65 and over are among the highest vaccinated group in the country. New Jersey is leading the nation in fighting COVID.

According to multiple reports, Garden State residents age 65 and over are among the highest vaccinated group in the country. New Jersey is leading the nation in fighting COVID.

Now, I am not talking about politics or the misinformation that is affecting personal decisions on getting vaccinated. I am talking about the facts: Our fellow New Jerseyans over the age of 65 remember growing up in a time before vaccines. They can remember when polio, measles and other contagious diseases would shut down schools and swimming pools, and put communities on edge. They had lived through this before.

We hear the term “unprecedented” used in discussions about COVID, the vaccines and mandates. Yes – this is unprecedented; the last time we saw a health crisis of this magnitude, a true pandemic, was over 100 years ago.

Living through the flu epidemic of 1918

There are a handful of people who lived through the influenza epidemic of 1918, which spread worldwide before we had airplanes, cars and the social interactions we were so accustomed to until COVID arrived.  Many of the medical advances we take for granted were not developed – vaccines were in their infancy and penicillin was still 10 years away.

One of my favorite books is Flu: The Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 and the Search for the Virus That Caused It, written by Gina Kolata and published in 1999. I was deep in my graduate work in public health then and found the book to be a real thriller. (I still do, but realize not everyone shares my interest in contagious things.)

No corner of the globe was left unaffected and the similarities of the 1918 pandemic and COVID-19 are surprising, considering the century of medical progress that has passed in between.

A few years ago, I made a documentary with SOMA (South Orange Maplewood) Two Towns for All Ages, in which we asked older residents about their memories of growing up before vaccines. Stories included children being sent away to family members in the countryside for the summer, to avoid polio. One woman recalled a relative who returned home from World War II a hero, only to succumb to polio a few weeks thereafter. Another witnessed diseases first-hand as a young nurse. Their honest recollections come to my mind every time I hear updates on vaccination rates.

We have come a long way and I am truly proud that people who can remember the time without vaccines took the lead in getting them to not only protect themselves but also others.

Vaccination rates for people 65+: nationwide vs. NJ

As of this writing, the national vaccination rate among adults age 65+ is 90+% ; in NJ it is over 98% with some communities reporting all residents over age 65 are vaccinated. 

In addition, vaccination rates for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) NJ residents are above the national average, elevating protection in communities that have been hit hardest by this virus. (Source: NJ Department of Health, USAfacts.org and CDC.gov)  

So, well done NJ! Once again, our older neighbors have proven that they are leaders and have so much to teach the rest of us.

I thank all of the people who drew on their life experiences and memories in making their health care decision to get the COVD vaccine. May we all look to your example.

To see the SOMA Two Towns for All Ages documentary “A Time Before Vaccines,” click here. This oral history shares the personal memories of SOMA residents growing up in a time before vaccines, and how now preventable diseases like polio, diphtheria and measles affected their lives.

Grand-families: A different call to action

Guest blog by NJAAW Board member Dr. Charisse Smith.

In the spring of 2020, I heralded a call to action for grand-families across New Jersey. Grandparents and other older family members bravely took on the challenge of helping their students with remote or virtual learning during COVID-19.

They assisted their young students with logging onto such online learning platforms as Zoom, Google Classroom, Google Meets, Canvas and plenty of other sites dedicated to virtual instruction. Uploading, downloading, links, passwords, usernames, mousepads, iPads and screenshots had become familiar vernacular for these now tech-savvy older warriors of the web. 

This school year, students are back in their classrooms and the laptops and tablets have taken a backseat to in-person instruction.

Additional challenges for in-person learning

Many students are finding it difficult to adjust to a very long and very different type of school day. Masking, social distancing, quarantining and other COVID-19 school protocols have made the school day especially demanding-particularly for the younger ones who had not benefited from any previous type of in-school experience.

Those students who have had the in-person experience of a “normal” school day are also finding it challenging to navigate through an extra set of expectations — wearing masks all day, not sharing materials and sitting socially distanced from friends in the cafeteria — in addition to catching up to grade-level expectations.

Since students returned to school, educators and parents have expressed concern about learning loss due to the shortcomings of virtual learning and the lack of “real school” social interactions.

To help students adjust to the social and academic demands, schools have added an additional layer of supportive learning opportunities to the student day: Social Emotional Learning (SEL).

What is Social Emotional Learning?

According  to the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL), SEL is “the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotion, and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships and make responsible and caring decisions.”

There are public school districts in NJ — Westfield, Deptford, Clayton, Paulsboro, Readington, Eatontown and Jackson among them — that have adopted SEL curricula, which address student self- and social-awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making and relationship skills.

When schools are committed to the tenets of an SEL curriculum, the strategic instructional opportunities and practices enhance a positive classroom climate and help students become self-aware, caring, responsible and engaged lifelong learners.

I am again heralding the call to our Grand-families–partner up!

As grand-families and caregivers, you can also support in-school SEL by finding out about your school’s SEL curriculum and becoming more involved with your student’s school.

The benefits of grand-family/school partnerships

Grand-families partnering with schools that support SEL provide a win-win for the entire school community. Intergenerational older adult/student relationships provide wonderful opportunities for SEL and development.

Stanford University psychology professor and Founding Director of the Stanford Center on Longevity, Laura Carstensen, states that as we age, our brains improve in the areas of complex problem-solving and emotional intelligence. Both of these are great qualities of a great mentor! Children can benefit from the counseling and experiences older adults can provide.

Carstensen points out that older adults are exceptionally suited to meet the needs of children because both welcome meaningful, productive activity and engagement. Older adults can help children develop self-awareness and empathetic skills that are essential to building healthy relationships in school by cultivating their relationships at home; identifying, communicating and acknowledging emotions, and modeling empathy and coping skills.

Our students thrive when schools and all families partner together. As one of the first in my school community to see students arriving at school, I have observed our older adult family members walking young students to their class lines outside on the blacktop playground. I’ve also heard their morning conversations, which have included making sure that the students are respectful toward their friends when joining their class line and ensuring that they say “good morning” to classmates.

At lunchtime, my first-graders are eager for me to read their “love notes” — words of encouragement and daily affirmations from their grandmas and abuelitas tucked inside their tiny lunch boxes. These are definitely warm-and-fuzzy moments, even for me!

Grand-families, please help our schools!

Schools have room for improvement. Our schools can be consistent in creating spaces where families feel welcome to share their culture, language, wisdom and skills.

Reach out to your child’s school, teacher or principal to develop a partnership. Join your school’s Parent Teacher Association (PTA) or Parent Association. The skills, wisdom, and time you volunteer may make a difference in how your young family member connects socially and emotionally to school.

Let’s continue this course of positive relationship building and support because we all are family–parents, students, grand-family members and educators. Thank you!

Click here for my list of ideas and resources.

Dr. Charisse Smith

NJAAW Board member Dr. Charisse Smith, principal consultant and owner of Sankofa Educational Consulting, LLC, in Trenton, NJ, is the new Curriculum Supervisor for Social Studies, kindergarten through grade 6, for Trenton Public Schools. A member of the National Sorority of Phi Delta Kappa Inc. – Pi Chapter, an organization of professional educators, she and her chapter sisters focus their volunteer efforts on youth, education and service to the Greater Trenton area community. Smith and her husband, Steven, are the proud parents of Raven and Satchel. She is also a caregiver for her parents, Richard and Saundra.

Avoiding COVID-19 Vaccination Scams

Guest blog by Charles Clarkson, Esq., Project Director, Senior Medicare Patrol of New Jersey

On March 13, 2020, a national health emergency was declared due to the coronavirus pandemic. After many years of running the Senior Medicare Patrol of New Jersey (SMP), I knew it was only a matter of time before we starting seeing SCAMS related to the health emergency. Fraudsters are always looking for ways to scam people, and the COVID-19 public health emergency has been no exception. Initially, fraudsters promoted false cures, sold phony personal protective equipment, given people illegitimate COVID tests and billed Medicare for sham tests and treatments. Now, they are targeting vaccines.

The goals of the fraudsters are very simple: to obtain your information, which they can use to steal your personal and/or medical identity, or to outright steal your money. The SMP has seen a number of vaccine scams. The more you know about these scams the more likely it is you will not fall victim to them.

Head-of-the-line Vaccine Scams

Scammers call and say you can get your vaccine early by providing your Medicare number or other personal information. They may ask for payment upfront and/or insurance information in order to be placed on a priority waiting list for a vaccine you may never receive.

Don’t fall for it. You cannot pay to get in line for a vaccine.

Survey Vaccine Scams

You have gotten your vaccine. You then get an email asking you to complete a health survey. It looks legitimate and has logos and telephone numbers that appear to be genuine. You want to be helpful because you are grateful you were able to get the vaccine. Some of these surveys are also offering money or other incentives to entice you to participate in the survey. The messages may also claim to be urgent, giving a timeframe of expiration to get you to click on their deceptive link to gain personal information.

Don’t fall for it. A vaccine survey offering you an incentive or stating a sense of urgency to complete is a red flag. You should double-check logos and phone numbers and hover over links to see if they are long and suspicious. Don’t click on them.

Vaccine Trial Scams

There are numerous clinical research trials in the race to develop additional COVID-19 vaccines, treatments and cures. Legitimate clinical trials may offer payments to participants under well-defined legal guidelines. However, career criminals know the offer of a paid clinical trial is also an opportunity for financial identity theft.

Don’t fall for it. Be wary of unsolicited emails, calls, or personal contacts requesting personal information. The Federal Trade Commission issued a warning in October 2020 with helpful hints to determine whether a trial is legitimate.

Vaccines-for-Sale Scams

Scammers are setting up fake websites offering to sell vaccines or vaccine kits. Some are imitating legitimate pharmaceutical manufacturers. In some cases, scammers were asking for payment for vaccines and/or kits via a credit card and sending payment to a specific credit union.

Don’t fall for it. You can’t buy a vaccine.

For More Information About Vaccine Scams Affecting Older Adults

If you think you have been a victim of Medicare fraud, errors, or abuse, contact the Senior Medicare Patrol of New Jersey at 1-732-777-1940 or call our hotline at 1-877-SMP-4359 [1-877-767-4395]. You can also visit our website.

Find Help in Your State

If you live in a state other than NJ, you can find help by visiting the SMP Resource Center.

If you have questions related to Medicare billing for COVID-19 vaccines, call 1-800-Medicare [1-800-633-4227] or visit Medicare.

Charles Clarkson, Esq., has been the Project Director of the Senior Medicare Patrol of New Jersey, under the auspices of the Jewish Family Services of Middlesex County, since 2005. The Senior Medicare Patrol of New Jersey is a federally funded program of the U.S. Administration for Community Living and part of the national Senior Medicare Patrol project. There is a Senior Medicare Patrol in every state, including the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgins Islands. The SMP of New Jersey is responsible for teaching Medicare recipients in the state to become better healthcare consumers. As part of this effort, seniors are provided with information to prevent them from becoming victims of fraud, waste and abuse in the Medicare program. The SMP program also assists beneficiaries in reviewing suspected Medicare fraud and can act as an advocate to assist beneficiaries in fighting Medicare fraud, waste and abuse.

Clarkson is a New York attorney who for many years was Vice President, Deputy Counsel and Corporate Secretary of TLC Beatrice International Holdings, Inc., a multi-billion, international food company.

Aging Well – Moving Forward Together

A promo for the conference.

Excerpt from a speech by Cathy Rowe, DrPH, NJAAW’s new Executive Director

For the last four to five years, I have been deeply involved in age-friendly efforts and communities, and as you have heard in recent weeks — and from some of our [conference] speakers — NJ has committed to becoming an age-friendly state. So, this is an exciting time with a lot of opportunities for all of us in the field of aging to make change where needed, keep all the best of what we do and attempt things we never thought possible before. Now is the time to reach high.

When [NJ’s Director of the Division of Aging Services (DoAS)] Louise Rush told us that 23+% of NJ residents were over age 60, even I was surprised. That’s a lot! It really is a lot.

We have known that the Baby Boomers — the bubble born post-WW2 through 1968 — were the largest population group ever seen in the US, and we have watched for 60 years as they moved through the schools systems, the workforce, started their families and now enter retirement. We built schools for them, colleges, highways and other infrastructure to accommodate this population growth, but we are still not fully prepared for their next stage of life.

Living longer; prepping for the future

Part of this is because when they were born, the average life expectancy was still under 70 years. Now, a child born today may easily see their 100th birthday. That is a big change and a rapid change. Nobody building new schools to accommodate an influx of students in 1960 predicted that those same children would live as long and as well as they are now.

There is a lot to do to prepare. Coming out of COVID, as we rebuild and rebound, we need to keep the lessons we learned and use them for long-term planning, to shape policy and make improvements. No problem that any of us were working on before COVID was solved — most were accentuated. Many new, or rather, unrecognized challenges, were brought to the forefront. And we saw some very creative solutions.

Aging is actually one of the very few things we all have in common. My background is in public health, and I was once asked how public health fit into healthy aging. I responded that healthy aging is the goal of public health. All efforts, research, programs — whether long-term or in quick response to something like a pandemic are with the goal to help people live long, healthy lives as individuals and as a population.

Not just aging — aging well

So, the question we face is: How do we age well — as individuals, as communities and as a state?

So, the question we face is: How do we age well — as individuals, as communities and as a state?

At NJAAW, our role and goals are aligned with our emerging from COVID, the review of the state plan for older adults, and the age-friendly efforts. For 10 years, NJAAW has provided Aging Insights, our award-winning TV program, covering topics that range from health, pandemics to personal finances and just about everything in between. We will continue Aging Insights as well as holding webinars that have provided interactive sessions with colleagues in the field who have found unique ways to approach aging issues in their communities.

Sharing, educating, advocating

And based on the response to our conference’s networking session, and the very active Q&A for presenters, we will offer more opportunities to bring you together for discussions and idea-sharing — one small benefit of the last year is that we can now connect so easily online. Meeting online breaks down the many silos that might block our natural interaction — either by service area or geography.

This is NJ and with over 500 municipalities doing things 500 different ways, it is difficult to see what another community is doing and find ways to implement it for your town or program or agency. We want to help in the sharing of ideas, lessons and successes you all have had in your work.

As NJ works towards becoming an age-friendly state, we will continue the education and advocacy we have done for the past 23 years. We will increase our focus on policy and joining the discussion on age-friendly efforts and the changing demographics of our state. 

2030, that looming year we in NJ and many states expect to see the number of 60+ year old residents outnumber the number of students in the classrooms, is not far away. 

We will highlight issues of importance with

  • Data
    • Academic research and
    • The experience of local efforts bubbling up and state efforts going down

Where do we meet in the middle?

Your plans for aging well?

I asked Louise Rush and members of the breakout groups what their plans are for aging well — and I am going to keep asking so everybody, start thinking. We are all professionals here, working to help people age well. Whether social worker, housing, health care, recreation, mental health or transportation — we are working now to not only meet needs but to make life better for older New Jerseyans.

But as the flight crew always tells us, “Put on your own oxygen mask first.”  Louise Rush said age 0 – 60 goes fast. Age 60 – 90 might slow down for some as you find new time in retirement or might speed up more with additional family, responsibilities, or new careers and activities.

So, do not just think of what needs to be done right now, coming out of COVID, or for the next year, or the next inspection or budget cycle. Think of what YOU can do long term and what WE can do together. What do you personally want for your aging plan? Where do you want to live? Are you financially prepared?

Whether you are new to the field, mid-career or counting the weeks until you retire, envision where and how you want to live and what you will need. Now go do it!

The time is now

The timing for coming out of COVID actually is good, if there could ever be a “good time” or anything good to come from a pandemic. What I mean by that is that we are re-emerging and rebuilding at the exact time other significant changes are about to be made. We are launching statewide efforts to make NJ an age-friendly state just as we are looking at the lessons we learned from COVID.

We saw the devastating fragility of some of our residents who succumbed to this disease. We saw that socioeconomic status, including race and income, had a significant impact on whether someone caught COVID and their ability to recover.

Lessons to be learned

More than ever before, we came further in the last year in recognizing racial inequities, which become more pronounced as we age. We saw some communities embrace technology while others were left further behind. We learned that we do not know enough about our older residents who live in their own homes, who are not in any programs or receiving benefits. What do all of these have in common? They are lessons we learned and data points we can use going forward.

At NJAAW we are going to keep doing what we do well — convening, educating and advocating for older residents. To be as effective as possible at this important time of change, we will examine data more carefully to identify needs and to help shape policy. Look for the data highlights we will include in our newsletter and other communications.

Data = direction

From my time in academia, I learned that it is only with good data that we can help shape good policy and then implement that policy as effectively and efficiently as possible. I am thrilled to have supportive and dedicated people in our statehouse, including Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle and the members of the Aging and Senior Services Committee in the Assembly, and Director Rush shaping our next steps in policy and programs. At NJAAW we will share the data and discussions with you and will advocate for policy and the funding necessary to make NJ a state where we can all age well.

About Dr. Rowe

Dr. Cathy Rowe
Executive Director
NJ Advocates for Aging Well,
Photo by Steve Hockstein HarvardStudio.com

Cathy Rowe, DrPH, was named Executive Director of NJ Advocates for Aging Well in May, 2021. Most recently, Dr. Rowe served as Coordinator for SOMA (South Orange/Maplewood): Two Towns for All Ages, a grant-funded healthy aging initiative in a community with more than 6,000 residents over 60. This cutting-edge collaboration, based on the World Health Organization’s Domains of Healthy Aging, focuses on developing programs to address economic and infrastructure needs for an age-friendly community.

Dr. Rowe has spoken extensively on aging issues at conferences and symposia locally and globally and is an expert in establishing age-friendly communities. In 2020, the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging presented her with a “Best Practices for Socially Engaging Older Adults Award” for the “Repair Café” she established — the first of its kind in NJ. An inter-generational event, the cafe brings together people of all ages and levels of expertise to repair and save treasured items. This also helps to keep such items out of landfills.

Dr. Rowe serves on the steering committee for Impact 100 Essex and is a mentor for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Previously, she was a Board member for the Interfaith Hospital Network.

Dr. Rowe earned her DrPH in Health Policy and Management from Columbia University, where she received a Fellowship in Public Policy. Her BA in Economics is from Bates College.