older woman sitting and looking at the camera as another older woman holds onto her shoulders and looks down at her.

The Contours of Our Jewish Community: Snapshots from the 2018 Population Study

Editor’s Note: Each week, the Jewish News will offer insights into the findings of the 2018 Detroit Jewish Population Study with the intent of stimulating discussion about its potential meaning and impact.

Trends show growing preference for our elderly to age in place in what are commonly referred to as “naturally occurring retirement communities.” Included in this definition are condominium and apartment complexes where once-active retirees become more dependent on family members and the community at large to provide in-home support.

Concurrently, there has been significant growth in the number of non-denominational independent living facilities — at various price points — offering modern facilities, spa-like amenities, medical staff … and well-prepared non-kosher meals. Some now provide competition for Jewish Senior Life and its array of brick & mortar facilities in West Bloomfield and Oak Park.

During the 2017-2018 budget year, Jewish Senior Life received overall support of $3.67 million. Included in this was $671,203 from Federation’s annual campaign and challenge fund.

The 2018 Detroit Jewish population study shows our community includes 17,766 persons in Jewish households above the age of 65. Using a different metric, the study shows that 1,300 Jewish households with persons over age 75 needed in-home health care in the past year and 1,200 needed in-home support services. Most of the providers of these services — as well as others like transportation and adult day care — were not from Jewish-sponsored organizations.

Additionally, when comparing the 2018 data to the 2005 Detroit Jewish population study, there is a trend away from seniors (or their family caregivers) very much preferring to be in Jewish-sponsored senior housing. In 2005, 62 percent said they very much preferred a Jewish-sponsored facility compared to 42 percent in 2018. Also, while 14 percent said in 2005 that they had no preference one way or the other for a Jewish-sponsored facility, 26 percent said they had no preference in the 2018 study.

The 2018 study also asked about the importance of having kosher food. Among those who very much or somewhat preferred living in a Jewish-sponsored senior housing, 20 percent very much preferred kosher food, 18 percent somewhat preferred it, 47 percent had no preference and 15 percent would rather not have it at all.


  • Given the trends, would Jewish communal resources be better invested by providing more services, including programming, to Jewish elderly in their homes or residing at non-Jewish sponsored facilities?
  • At one time, the Jewish community owned and operated nursing homes (think Borman Hall). Not anymore. Are there any scenarios where the Jewish community might step back from owning and operating brick & mortar senior housing facilities?
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