Religious Retirement Office
Vol. 15, No. 3
A Time for Change
Close your eyes and imagine you are walking into an unknown building. As you stroll up a well-kept walkway, you notice several elderly women, one of whom is in a wheelchair, planting flowers. Two younger women assist as the older ones determine how best to showcase the colorful blooms. You open the front door. A friendly golden retriever wags you a “hello” then trots off to nap at the feet of a favorite friend. Entering the building, you notice a small group of men and women gathered amidst cozy chairs and sofas discussing a novel. Nearby, an elderly gentleman and two school children huddle over a third-grade math book.
A little further down the hall, you encounter a group of five people. You see two men, both with walkers behind their chairs. Beside them sit a middle-aged man dressed in a white laboratory coat, a young woman in a suit, and an elderly woman jotting notes on a pad of paper. You notice they are reviewing a document entitled, “Policies and Procedures for Staff/Resident Community Groups.”
Now you are in what appears to be the center of the building. There is a small fountain with blooming plants surrounded by several corridors. Above the corridors are placards with names such as Renaissance Reunion and Silvertopia.
You select the one named Golden Hills and walk down a brightly lit hallway. You pass a well-equipped kitchen, an inviting dining room and several comfortable bedrooms. Peeking into one of the bedrooms, you see a hospital bed and handicapped accessible shower. You also notice cheerful curtains, pictures, and a lovely bedside lamp. Finally you reach a small area with a desk, computer, phone, and what appear to be medical files and a medicine cabinet. A woman in a nurse’s uniform greets you warmly and then continues speaking with an elderly woman about her options for physical therapy. Now you understand—this building is a residence for elderly citizens.
Although the above scenario sounds improbable, it is exactly the vision for community-centered care that numerous nursing homes and retirement centers are striving to create. In fact, many such facilities already exist. Across the country, enlightened nursing home directors have begun to realize that the old, medical approach to caring for the elderly is ineffective. They understand that community-focused, person-centered care promotes not only greater satisfaction among residents and staff, but also a better bottom line.
The new care model reflects the need for elders to feel connected to the people and places around them. Thus, there is a strong emphasis on building a sense of community. Moreover, this formula respects the elderly as adults, capable of making, or at the very least being consulted about, decisions regarding medical care, dietary needs and recreational preferences. Facilities embracing this approach strive to provide residents with the simple, daily pleasures that make life meaningful, such as petting a dog or sharing coffee with a neighbor. Finally, the new model underscores the central importance of creating environments where staff feel respected and valued for their contributions and where they develop strong personal connections with the people they serve.
Of course, transitioning from a traditional system of care is not easy. It requires perseverance, openness to change and a cooperative spirit on the part of both residents and staff. Fortunately, several organizations, including Culture Change Now, offer on-site consultants, workshops and other resources to help facilitate the process. Many of these organizations base their work on the ten principles outlined in the Eden Alternative™. Developed in 1991 by Dr. William H. Thomas, the Eden Alternative asserts that we must overhaul the way we think about nursing homes. “The core concept of the Eden Alternative™ is strikingly simple. We must teach ourselves to see the environments as habitats for human beings rather than facilities for the frail and elderly.”1
But while improving care is critical, advocates for the frail and elderly have a much broader objective—changing the perception of aging in the United States. In July 2003, the American Society on Aging (ASA) sponsored a workshop entitled, Building the New Culture of Elderhood in America: Challenges and Champions. During this workshop, speaker William L. Keane, Director of Dementia Services at the Mather Institute on Aging in Evanston, Illinois, discussed the culture of declinism that is so pervasive in this country. From greeting cards to television commercials, nearly everything about aging focuses on loss and diminishment. Mr. Keane indicated that instead we must celebrate the positive aspects of aging, such as wisdom and emotional maturity. He felt that there should come a point in life where it is okay, even desirable, to abandon the need to “do” and instead just “be.” By changing societal perceptions and expectations, elderhood can become a period of life that is anticipated rather than dreaded.
In Ecclesiates 3:1, we are reminded that, “There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens.” Growing old is part of God’s time. Instead of trying to minimize or erase the effects of aging, we must learn to embrace them. In so doing, we will finally be able to offer our elders the respect, dignity, care and happiness they so richly deserve.
To learn more about the culture change movement and to read inspiring success stories, visit:
- Coming of Age by Simone de Beauvoir
- From Age-Ing to Sage-Ing: A Profound New Vision of Growing by Zalman Shalomi-Schachter
- The Force of Character: And the Lasting Life by James Hillman
- Where River Turns to Sky by Gregg Kleiner
A couple of weeks ago, I was flying back to the Baltimore-Washington International Airport seated next to a young GI. He had just received a two-week furlough at home after being deployed with a combat unit in Iraq for nine months. Returning to duty this time, he knew what he was getting into and that he had at least another seven months to be there. During his first months overseas, his girlfriend had found another, and his parents had moved. In a sense, he was going back to Iraq more homesick than before he left.
I've reflected on my time with that young soldier a lot and on his obvious sense of pride and honor in serving his country. Although he was no longer engaged in the combat for which he trained, he was pleased to be learning many new skills as part of the rebuilding process. He even remarked, "The woman who gets me will really be happy I've learned how to do all these handy man things."
My time with this soldier makes me think of our senior religious and how they have spent their lives being sent from one mission to another—wherever they were called. Often, they were not prepared for what they found. Yet they were dedicated and creative in meeting new needs, just as religious have always been and remain today. As a result, they built the best schools and the best health care system in the world. With our world’s ever-changing needs, religious are still in the forefront, now, for example, helping immigrants and all others falling through the safety net.
The 16th annual collection for retired religious is December 13th and 14th in most dioceses. Please remember the generosity and faithfulness of the religious on whose shoulders we stand today. And please don't forget our troops around the world.
My very best wishes for a joyous Christmas.
Sister Andrée Fries, CPPS
3211 Fourth Street NE
Washington, DC 20017-1194
(202) 541-3215, www.usccb.org/nrro
Project Director for Retirement Services
If you would like to make a bequest or restricted gift to the National Religious Retirement Office, the following information should be used:
To the United States Catholic Conference Incorporated, for the exclusive purpose of assisting Roman Catholic religious orders in the United States to provide for the retirement needs of their elderly members.
I Get By With A Little Help from My Friends
Sister Janice Bader, CPPS
As some of you may remember from articles in earlier newsletters, the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) conducted Best Practices research using National Religious Retirement Office (NRRO) data. The aim of that study was to identify the policies and practices utilized by religious institutes that have made the greatest amount of progress in funding their retirement needs.2
The report stated “…the institutes that represent best practices in retirement planning recognized their need to tap into many sources both within and beyond the institute for assistance and insight.”3 In light of this finding, I raise a couple of questions for your consideration:
Religious institutes in several major cities have come together to develop collaborative retirement facilities. In certain instances, large religious institutes with skilled care facilities provide services for members of small institutes when the need arises. Others come together for educational and enrichment programs related to retirement and pre-retirement issues. Still other institutes share personnel in the areas of finance or development. What are some additional opportunities for working together?
Given the creativity that abounds in religious institutes, I am sure that there are many more ways that we could share skills and resources to benefit one another. Religious used their ingenuity to build tremendous educational, health care and social services systems with very limited resources. With that same “can-do” spirit, we can address the challenge of providing care and stability for our elder religious.
We would appreciate if you would share with our office your response to one or both of the following:
Please send your responses via U.S. mail to the NRRO office or via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you in advance for sharing your time and ideas.
A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter, he who finds one finds a treasure. A faithful friend is beyond price, no sum can balance his worth.
Please send changes in addresses, phone, e-mail, or congregational leadership to NRRO c/o Jean Smith so that we can keep our records and mailing lists up-to-date.
Grants Update: Changes Planned for 2004
Br. Hank Sammon, FMS
It is that time of the year again, and in approximately six weeks, the Basic Grant applications will be sent to well over 700 religious communities. Prior to that mailing, major superiors and treasurers will receive a separate communication regarding changes in the criteria for some NRRO grants. I would like to outline those changes here.
BASIC GRANTS: There are no changes with the Basic Grant application or process. The grant explanation booklet and application will be mailed just after Christmas and should arrive before January 1, 2004. The grant application is due at the NRRO office by March 31, 2004. (Applications in Spanish may be obtained by contacting our office.)
SUPPLEMENTAL GRANTS: There are a number of significant changes in this grant and application:
- The size of the grant has been reduced from $300,000 to $250,000. This will allow more grants to be awarded.
- There will be two grant cycles. The first will be from January to June and the second from July to December. Grants will be awarded in June and December. This
change will allow for greater flexibility in assigning consultants. Grants applications will be due either on April 15th (grant to be awarded in December) or October 15th (grant to be awarded in June), depending on the cycle. This year the deadline for the June 2004 cycle will be December 31, 2003.
- Preference for awarding grants will be to first time applicants.
- Religious institutes that are more than fifty percent funded will not be eligible for a Supplemental Grant.
- Applicants need to be willing to have a long-range retirement plan in place. If a community does need help in formulating a plan, please contact the NRRO office for further information.
SING GRANTS: These grants will be limited to $5,000 and will originate from NRRO.
Hopefully, as we enter the final five years of the grants, these changes will allow funds to be distributed to a greater number of communities and to those with the most significant need. If anyone has any questions concerning these changes, please do not hesitate to contact NRRO.
|CMSM New Leader Workshop, Arlington, VA||December 4-7, 2003|
|ElderCare Consultants Training, Chicago, IL||December 12-14, 2003|
|National RFR Collection||December 13-14, 2003|
|Supplemental Grant applications due||December 31, 2003|
|Commission on Religious Life and Ministry||February 13-14, 2004|
|Legal Seminar, Denver, CO||March 11-14, 2004|
|National Vicars for Religious Meeting, New York, NY||March 18-21, 2004|
|Basic Grant and Special Assistance Grant applications due||March 31, 2004|
|Supplemental Grant applications due||April 15, 2004|
|Financial Workshop for small religious institutes, Washington DC||May 5-8, 2004|
|Grant awards distributed||June 2004|
|NATRI Orientation to Financial Management||June 7-11, 2004|
|LCWR/CMSM Joint Assembly, Fort Worth, TX||August 19-23, 2004|
|NRRO consultant In-Service, Detroit, MI||September 23-26, 2004|
- The Eden Alternative, “What is Eden?, retrieved November 6, 2003: http://www.edenalt.com/about.htm
- A summary of the major findings of this study will be published in early 2004. This will be followed by more detailed educational modules on various aspects of the findings.
- Planning for Retirement and Mission: A Best Practices Study, Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, Washington, DC, August, 2003, page 372.