E-3: Age-Friendly Community Partnerships Open Doors Across Housing and Services

NAB; HRCI; HUD; Service Coordinator – 1.25  Credit Hours  | Thursday, June 22nd. 9:45 AM – 11:00 AM

Session Description:

Service, social, and built environments have a tremendous impact on the health and quality of life of older adults. When these environments are not designed in ways that are responsive to aging, intertwining and compounding needs can arise for older adults, their families, and communities. Recent events such as the COVID-19 pandemic and Hurricane Ida, have illuminated the ways in which current systems across local, state, and federal levels leave gaps that impact older adults’ health, safety, and well-being. Publicly supported resources are especially important for older adults who do not have sufficient resources to access supports through the private market. We know that stable housing is inextricably linked with other needs: older adult need access to healthcare and social services as they age in place that are accessible to them; opportunities for social engagement and lifelong learning; and food security (among other supports) to lead healthy and meaningful lives.

Age-friendly community initiatives (AFCIs) are deliberate, collaborative, and typically geographically-based efforts that work across these many domains of community life to improve access and availability of opportunities. AFCIs have a history of working with a multitude of partners – including housing providers – to meet the intertwined needs of older and aging residents. In this session, we will learn from examples of partnerships between affordable senior housing providers and AFCIs that improved outcomes for communities. Presenters from three communities in New Jersey with varying socio-demographic composition and population size, representing housing authorities, nonprofit affordable assisted living, and nonprofit affordable independent living, will discuss efforts to integrate residential and community life for the ultimate benefit of older residents, the organizational partners, and the community at large. Through learning about these exemplary partnerships between AFCI leaders, housing, and service providers, we will demonstrate how collaboration is key to mobilizing community resources and having the greatest impact for older residents. We can further learn from these examples to make better policy and practices to support older residents living with precarity in New Jersey and nationwide.

Learning Objectives:

Recognize that areas of need among older adults are intertwined, and so the approaches to addressing these needs should be collaborative and cross-sectoral

List changes that could be made to business as usual in your own employment settings and communities to enhance the well-being of older residents by addressing co-occurring needs and not just housing alone

Identify potential partners to improve quality of life and well-being for older residents


Althea Pestine-Stevens, Program Manager – Age-Friendly North Jersey, Rutgers University

Dr. Pestine-Stevens is an engaged researcher in social sciences with experience facilitating networking groups and communications platforms to further connect leaders with each other and with the dissemination of their work. Their academic publications include not only studies of aging-in-community, but also the ethics and intricacies of community-engaged research. Dr. Pestine-Stevens has been invited to speak about university engagement in aging-in-community, Villages, Age-Friendly Community Initiatives, leadership development, social isolation, research methods, and more to international audiences that include academics, practitioners, and older adult community leaders. Dr. Pestine-Stevens has a strong history of working well with interorganizational teams to implement novel programs, such as the inaugural New Jersey Age-Friendly Virtual Fair. Currently, Dr. Pestine-Stevens’ role at Rutgers University includes both academic research (mixed methods) and engagement with community leaders.

ElesterJoyce Vizzi, Director of Senior Programs The Bright Side Family/Age-Friendly Teaneck

ElesterJoyce “EJ” Vizzi, is the Director of Senior Programs with The Bright Side Family and has been with the organization in various capacities since 2016. Through her social services lens, she is able to connect seniors to the resources necessary to safely and conveniently age-in-place in their community by walking them through often-confusing application processes, such as Medicaid and SNAP. She earned her master’s degree from Rutgers School of Social Work, with a focus on health & aging, management & policy, and non-profit management. She is a licensed social worker, certified assisted living administrator, and certified dementia practitioner. Through different areas of field, EJ has been working for organizations and programs that serve the needs of older adults in NJ since 2008.

Catherine Hart, Deputy Executive Director Housing Authority of the City of Elizabeth

Catherine Hart is the Deputy Executive Director for the Housing Authority of the City of Elizabeth (HACE) and has been since 2007.   Through her 38 years of service with the Housing Authority, she has  held positions as Tenant Interviewer, Senior Account Clerk, Employee Benefits Coordinator, Director of Staff operations, and lastly as Deputy Executive Director.  Her responsibilities as Deputy Director are to assist the Executive Director in all facets of Housing Authority Operations including staffing, program implementation and supervision of the Authority’s 1600 public housing units and its 1450 Section 8 Rental Assistance Vouchers.

Tashiera Howard, Director of Older Adults Bergen Family Center

Tashiera Howard is the Director of Older Adult Services at Bergen Family Center in Englewood, New Jersey. She has over 15 years of experience in clinical services; however, the last two years have focused on rebuilding four older adult programs within the agency. The programs are designed to empower seniors to live with dignity and restore and maintain every aspect of wellness. Her experience includes direct service, case management, counseling, and program leadership. She has worked with community leaders and other partners to provide an abundance of services for seniors throughout Bergen County, NJ. She is actively involved with the Age-Friendly North Jersey alliance with hopes of creating resilient, healthy, and inclusive communities. As a doctoral candidate, she plans to continue expanding her efforts to make a difference in vulnerable populations.