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Preview RRF’s New Priority Areas

Overview of Priority Areas

The Retirement Research Foundation (RRF) recently approved a strategic plan that reaffirms our continuing commitment to improve the quality of life for older people.  A centerpiece of our plan is the establishment of four priority areas in aging.  Beginning in 2020, these four areas will be given higher priority within the Foundation’s grantmaking program:

    • Caregiving
    • Economic Security in Later Life
    • Housing
    • Social and Intergenerational Connectedness

Each priority area will afford RRF an opportunity to fund innovative and effective projects that support the ability of older people to live fully in community settings.  While the priority areas reflect RRF’s primary funding interests, we will remain open to considering compelling applications on other topics on a selective basis.

Here is a brief overview of each priority area:

CaregivingEnsuring that care partners (including family members, friends, or neighbors) are informed, well-trained, and supported, as they care for older people in community settings

Nearly 44 million Americans serve as care partners for older people or those with disabilities.  The estimated annual value of their combined service is $470 billion per year, four times what Medicaid spends on long-term services and supports.  Providing care to older people comes with a great economic, physical, and emotional toll.  Supporting caregivers will help assure that they are able to continue providing care that will enable their care recipients to live in their community setting for as long as possible.

Examples of possible funding opportunities for this priority area may include (but are not limited to) efforts that:

      • promote systematic identification and assessment of caregivers across all health and home- and community-based service “touch points” to enable family-centered care coordination and service delivery;
      • advocate for local, state, and federal policies that support caregiver services such as training, adult day, respite, and home-based primary care;
      • replicate proven caregiver interventions through web-based training and technical assistance; and
      •  promote translation of evidence-based programs for diverse caregivers.

Housing: Promoting efforts that make housing more affordable and provide coordinated services that enable older people to remain living in the community safely and with dignity

It is well-documented that older people prefer to live in their own homes and communities as long as possible.  Evidence suggests that access to affordable, service-enriched housing options can help older people stay in their homes and significantly reduce or delay unnecessary nursing home placement, improve safety at home, prevent homelessness, and enable the best possible quality of life.

Examples of possible funding opportunities for this priority area may include (but are not limited to) efforts that:

      • advocate for increased investments in supportive services delivered in the home;
      • evaluate the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of new or existing supportive housing interventions;
      • expand access to modifications that enable older residents to continue living in their homes;
      • enhance the role of service coordinators in senior housing by improving professional education and training standards; and
      • replicate proven best practices, such as home-based primary care, CAPABLE, and other models that link health and housing.

Economic Security in Later Life: Valuing the dignity of older people through efforts that ensure and protect their economic security and well-being

RRF envisions that all older people will be able to achieve a secure and dignified retirement.  They will have sufficient income to meet all of their basic expenses; be provided with assistance, if needed, to plan and manage their income and savings effectively in later life; and be assured of a stable national retirement system that provides the supports, services, and protections needed to achieve basic economic security.

Despite challenges related to state and federal policies and the capacity of the aging services network to address this issue, there are many funding opportunities that can help older people achieve economic security in later life.  They may include, (but are not limited to) efforts that:

      • increase the number of eligible older adults who enroll in and receive benefits;
      • improve the affordability of healthcare by preserving and improving Medicare coverage, reducing healthcare costs, and building the capacity of service providers to help older people navigate complex healthcare coverage options;
      • promote and protect employment opportunities;
      • expand pension counseling to help retirees receive earned pension benefits, protect them from reductions in defined benefit plans, and resolve fiscal problems of the defined benefits system; and
      • strengthen Social Security through policy action that restores it to long-range actuarial balance without benefit cuts; and reduce the number of older people opting for early benefits.

Social and Intergenerational Connectedness: Reducing isolation and loneliness in later life through efforts that strengthen meaningful social bonds, including those that span generations

Meaningful social connections are fundamentally important to the health and well-being of all people.  Older people are at higher risk for social isolation and loneliness due to ageism and changes in their social networks and health.  However, not all older people who live alone and are socially isolated experience loneliness and its detrimental effects.

RRF recognizes the important relationship between social connectedness and intergenerational bonds.  Research suggests that ageist language, which separates generations, contributes to the isolation and diminishment of older adults.  Studies also indicate that meaningful intergenerational programming may reduce social isolation and enhance the physical and mental well-being of older people.

Examples of possible funding opportunities for this priority area may include (but are not limited to) efforts that:

      • identify and test best methods to find and engage isolated older people and enhance the social potential of programs such as Meals on Wheels, telephone reassurance, and peer support groups;
      • support prevention of social isolation and loneliness;
      • apply technologies that have the potential to bring isolated older adults into community; and
      • replicate proven models for engagement of older people, including friendly visitation, service learning, volunteerism, and intergenerational housing.

Other Promising Opportunities:

While these priority areas reflect RRF’s primary funding interests, we remain open to supporting other opportunities in aging on a selective basis.  Examples include (but are not limited to):

      • innovative and/or important projects that may not relate to a priority area, but have the potential to advance the field of aging;
      • timely projects that address urgent issues or emerging topics of interest; and
      • efforts to promote positive perceptions of aging.