SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — Home Sweet Home is a saying that most aptly represents the sentiment of the nine (9) JESPY House clients who now reside at The Michael Och House – A Center for Aging at JESPY. Their move into the fully accessible residence was commemorated with a Grand Opening on October 6.

   “This project is a culmination of three years of preparing to improve services for our aging clients with Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities,” said JESPY Executive Director Audrey Winkler. “Over a hundred of our 250 clients are 45 years and older. People with Developmental Disabilities are presented with age-related challenges decades earlier than the typical population. This shared house provides our clients with an independent living arrangement.”

   In addition to the clients and their families, the event was attended by the home’s namesake and JESPY Board member Dr. Michael Och and the Och family; local and state government officials; donors; JESPY Board members; and a wide array of well-wishers.

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   Also on hand were Paul Aronsohn, the NJ Ombudsman for Individuals with Intellectual or Developmental Disabilities and Their Families; South Orange Village Trustee Steve Schnall, Assemblywoman Mila M. Jasey; and Marsha Atkind, Executive Director/CEO of The Healthcare Foundation of NJ. Funding for The Michael Och House was generously provided by the Jane and Daniel Och Family Foundation, honoring their father’s 20-plus years of Board leadership and service to JESPY. The Healthcare Foundation’s grant assisted in the installation of an elevator while a challenge grant from the Leon & Toby Cooperman Family Foundation and individual gifts from many donors were earmarked for renovations.

    The Michael Och House, JESPY’s first Aging in Place residence, is doing its part to help meet an increasing need to service people with I/DD as they age. Statistics show that adults with I/DD are more likely to experience poorer health as they age. On-site services, such as occupational & physical therapy and nursing, can aid in the care of the residence’s clients.

   “JESPY House is really in the forefront of a growing recognition of the special needs of people with I/DD who are aging,” said JESPY Board President Ron Brandt.

   The Michael Och House also meets those needs with accessible bathrooms, a fitness & exercise area, and other amenities. The completion of the home opens the door for the next phase of JESPY’s Aging in Place initiative, which would be to provide additional services, programs, and housing for adults with I/DD.

   “I must admit that when I became involved with JESPY more than thirty years ago,” said Michael Och, “I couldn’t have dreamed of this. But a house like this is so necessary and it’s been so great to hear from the clients, their families, and the people in the community about the importance of this residence.” 

   JESPY House serves adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities ranging in age from 18 to 71.  Visit jespy.org to learn more about JESPY’s specialized programs and services.