Strength to Strength with AgeOptions

by Carole Klein-Alexander

That’s the word that Jonathan Lavin, president and CEO of AgeOptions, says several times emphatically when referring to his organization’s longstanding relationship with CJE SeniorLife. Indeed, AgeOptions’ relationship with CJE has resulted in the funding of many initiatives that help older adults stay in their homes longer, in better health, and with vital services such as transportation, home-delivered meals, personal care and benefits counseling.

Similar to CJE SeniorLife in many ways, AgeOptions is a “nonprofit organization connecting older adults and those who care for them with resources and service options so they can live their lives to the fullest.” The aspiration to address the physical, emotional, and psychological concerns of seniors was further realized in 1974, when the Illinois Department on Aging—in accordance with the Older Americans Act of 1965— designated the non-profit Area Agency on Aging of suburban Cook County, IL (renamed AgeOptions in 2006) to plan, coordinate, and fund programs and services for people 60 and older so they could remain independent in their communities.

Just like AgeOptions, CJE has been committed since 1972 to its mission of helping seniors age with dignity and respect, as independently as possible, in the community.

Today, AgeOptions administers more than $15 million annually in Federal, State, local and foundation  funds to support the programming provided by 60 community-based senior service organizations such as councils on aging, townships and senior centers... and with much gratitude, CJE SeniorLife. Through its community partnerships, AgeOptions assists more than 200,000 people every year. According to Mr. Lavin, more than 18,000 suburban Cook County seniors in 2013 received one million home-delivered meals. CJE is grateful for AgeOptions’ significant contribution to its own home-delivered meals program that in 2013 provided over 100,000 meals to almost 600 frail seniors.

Mr. Lavin believes it is our joint responsibility to provide seniors with the information they need to make informed decisions. Giving seniors the right tools could possibly help control the rising cost of Medicare or ease the impending transition to a Managed Care healthcare system. To advance this concept, CJE recently received a federal grant through AgeOptions to develop an Aging and Disability Resource Center in Niles Township. CJE’s Resource Specialists are available to provide information and referrals to assist older adults, caregivers and people with disabilities make decisions about care options and understand their government benefits.

As an expert in the field of aging with more than 40 years of experience, it is thought-provoking to hear Mr. Lavin’s forecast about the types of programs that eldercare organizations may want to have in place in order to meet the unique needs of the next—and largest—generation of oldsters: the Boomers. He can envision the  need for more adult day services, technology-based solutions like CJE’s Virtual Senior Center which brings web based programming to homebound seniors throughout the country, and person-centered health education such as CJE’s “Take Charge of Your Diabetes,” a self-management workshop series also funded, in part, by an AgeOptions grant. However, without a crystal ball, Mr. Lavin acknowledges that “there is still much to learn about how innovative programming and technology will apply to the growing number of seniors who will still need basic services like food and transportation at a time when fewer government resources are available.”

Mr. Lavin is deeply respectful—both personally and professionally—of the synergy between CJE and AgeOptions. He fondly recalls that his mother was a member of a women’s group that purchased one of the first Shalom buses. It is an honor to hear him validate that “CJE SeniorLife is a pioneer in the field of aging. We respect our 15-plus years of collaboration and have great confidence in CJE’s leadership and foresight to develop and deliver relevant, life-enhancing services to those who need it most.” CJE SeniorLife and AgeOptions... true partners in every way.

Mr. Jonathan Lavin has served as president and CEO of AgeOptions since 1978. He holds a Master’s in Public Administration and Bachelor’s in Government from American University, Washington, DC. 


This article originally appeared in the Spring 2014 issue of LIFE, CJE SeniorLife's quarterly magazine.