WASHINGTON (November 29, 2001) -- The Retirement Research Foundation of Chicago, Illinois, has awarded $200,000 for research on best practices in caring for elderly religious.
The foundation is the nation's largest private foundation exclusively devoted to aging and retirement issues. The Retirement Research Foundation will grant the money over a two-year period beginning January 1, 2002.
The award was made in support of the project entitled: A Comprehensive Review of Best Practices for the Care and Support of U.S. Catholic Senior Women and Men Religious.
The project is directed by the Commission on Religious Life and Ministry with the National Religious Retirement Office (NRRO) serving as staff. The Georgetown University-based Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) will be the primary researcher.
Research will be based on the fifteen years of data that are archived at NRRO.
The objectives of the study are:
- To identify religious institutes that have addressed successfully both the retirement needs of their members and the ongoing mission and ministry priorities of their institutes;
- To identify major models and practices used by religious institutes that have responded successfully to the challenges of retirement and continued viability in mission;
- To disseminate the results of the findings to all religious institutes and Bishops in the United States in order to promote wider implementation of best practices.
There are an estimated 35,000 Sisters and 5,000 Brothers and Priests Religious over the age of 70 in the United States.
Last year the fund collected $32.6 million and provided assistance to almost 500 religious orders.
The National Religious Retirement Office notes that the increasing median age among religious makes this collection especially important now.
Of more than 70,000 women religious in the country, 53 percent are now past 70; of the more than 15,000 men, 35 percent are past 70. Total cost of care for them in independent, assisted living and skill nursing homes in the year 2000 was $716 million. The annual Social Security benefit received by an individual religious is less than $4,000.
Signs of the impending retirement crisis became evident in the seventies as health care costs skyrocketed, demographics shifted in religious orders, and the number of wage earners declined. Religious orders instituted several cost-cutting measures, including the establishment of collaborative health facilities with other institutes, sale of property and improved financial planning.
The Religious Retirement Collection was launched in 1988 by the U.S. bishops and leaders of national associations of religious orders. Since the appeal was established, the Religious Retirement Collection has collected $350 million, making it the most successful regular collection in the history of the Church in the United States.