Friday, July 04, 2008

Sponsoring the Elderly through CFCA

Today, July 5th, is my day for the 40 Day Fast. Please, check out Andira's blog about clean water as well. Without further ado...

Emy has been staying with my family for the last week. She will be with us for two weeks while her family is in Chicago vacationing and wrapping up the affairs of a deceased family member. Emy is a wonderful Filipino grandmother in her 70’s. She is also very lucky in that she has a daughter and son-in-law who can take her into their home and take care of her in her old age. Watching her shuffle around our house reminds me of all the people in the developing world who don’t have children who can take care of them.

In the US, we have Social Security and Medicare to provide income and health care for the elderly. As a society, we take pretty good care of them materially, and children are much more likely than the elderly to go hungry and live in extreme poverty. In the developing world, though, there are no governmental safety nets. The elderly must rely entirely on their families or community organizations. While this works out well for many people, since they have children who can take care of them, some elderly people fall through the cracks. Perhaps their children have emigrated to look for work and are unable to do more than send an irregular check. Perhaps their child died. Perhaps they never had children. There are a myriad of reasons why people end up in extreme poverty in their old age. Probably the most terrible thing about material poverty among the elderly is that it is often the result of a lack of social connections. Because of this, it can be accompanied by great loneliness. As Mother Teresa said, “Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty.”

The Christian Foundation for Children and Aging provides an opportunity for people in the first world to connect with an elderly person in the developing world to provide them with food, clothes, medical care, the opportunity to be involved in social programs and (most importantly) to provide them with the knowledge that they are loved and valued.

Sponsoring elderly people isn’t sexy. I sponsor several kids through various aid organizations. The kids draw pictures and write letters telling us about their plans for the future. One gal who has been sponsored by my wife since before we were married is nearly grown and wrote last month asking for advice on career and college choices that she’s been pondering. It’s a pretty awesome experience. You know you are making a difference and that someone’s life will be changed for many years to come. You can see their handwriting and social abilities improve as they get older. You can see their dreams come to fruition. The elderly are different. Many are losing their eyesight and are unable to write letters for themselves. They soil themselves. Their goals are modest: they have no plans for college, marriage and family. They have trouble getting around. They are set in their ways: if your primary purpose in sponsoring somebody is to convert them to your religion, you’re probably wasting your money. Yet, none of that matters to God. He loves them no less than any child, and if we are to imitate His love, we cannot overlook them in our efforts to combat poverty and spread His love around.

Today, I would ask that you read the stories of these people and consider sponsoring an aging person through CFCA. It costs just $30/month and provides so much more than food, clothes and medical care. It provides someone with hope and love. It also reminds your kids that the elderly are important and that they had better make darn sure to take care of you in your doddering years. 

As for myself, I think I’m gonna go sit down next to Emy and chat for a spell. I enjoy hearing her stories about her years as a singer, about growing up as a musician’s kid at the Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong before and after the Japanese invasion of WWII, and about the farm back in the Philippines.

The obligatory financial stuff
CFCA is a fantastic organization: 93.8% of donations go to program support. CFCA has received seven consecutive 4 star ratings from Charity Navigator (less than 1% of charities make this cut) and is the ONLY child/aging sponsorship organization to receive the A+ rating from the American Institute of Philanthropy.

Poverty among the elderly is not an issue that is going to go away. The UN Population Division projects that by 2050 the proportion of elderly people to working people in the developing world is set to rise by over 250%. As of 2005, the dependency ratio was 8.7%. By 2050, the UN projects that the dependency ratio will climb to 22.6%*. The world is set for an unprecedented growth in the percentage of elderly people, and it is very unlikely that social structures and services are going to keep pace with this change.
* Statistics taken from TABLE II.1. AGE COMPOSITION AND DEPENDENCY RATIO, BY DEVELOPMENT GROUP AND MAJOR AREA, ESTIMATES AND MEDIUM VARIANT, 2005 AND 2050 in World Population Prospects: The 2004 Revision, Volume III: Analytical Report


euphrony said...

Fantastic post. I've long tried to work with the elderly in nursing homes, and know first hand the joy a simple conversation brings. I'll be praying for you today as you fast.

Kristin said...

This is a good organization, honestly I wish that even the U.S. did more for the elderly, but I realize that there is a difference than those here and those in extreme poverty....

Angela said...

Thanks for this post. I had no idea that there were programs to sponsor the elderly.

Kelly said...

Great effort!

Amy said...

Thanks for highlighting this very important need.

thesecretlifeofkat said...

Emy is Filipino? I am too. Cool...

What a great organization. I definitely have a heart for the elderly, thanks for sharing yours.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for highlighting CFCA in the 40 Day Fast! You are right that sponsorship of an aging friend is different than a child, but just as important and necessary. Thanks for speaking on behalf of the aging.

-- Kristin Littrell
CFCA staff

steviepinhead said...

This is an entirely admirable effort, MB! Thanks for posting.

While my own parents are, fortunately, adequately well off in terms of their finances and medical care, and enjoy reasonably decent health for their ages, we are beginning to enter into that delicate stage of wondering how much longer one of them can continue to live independently, to question the travel time between home and sophisticated medical care, and so forth. Both are beginning to have issues with hearing loss...

Even as I type those words, I realize all over again how vastly better off they are than are the poor elderly of many parts of the world, who lack so many things, from adequate food and shelter, to medical care, to opportunities for continued engagement.

"Traditionally," these lacks have been partly compensated by being "embedded" in an extended family (the requirement for which has itself been a driver for overpopulation...). Globalization, urbanization, industrialization, and cultural shifts have begun to erode this traditional support system, without replacing it with the social "safety net" system of developed nations (which can itself be isolating and alienating, and a less-than-adequate substitute for the society and care afforded by the traditional extended family).

The world never seems to run short of vexing and intransigent issues. Thanks again for shedding some light on this one.

MamasBoy said...


Thanks for the comments. I pray this has inspired some of you to action.


Leave it to you to touch on every major socio-political theme in my post and even expand on it further in a far more succinct manner. One of these days, I gotta get some writing tips from you. :-)


steviepinhead said...

Heh! Thanks, MB!

Here's a tip I should follow more often myself: write shorter!

Kevin said...

Excellent post, MB. Particularly insightful was your consideration of how it isn't sexy but the need remains. I also appreciated Stevie's brief review of the transition away from extended family, contrasted with your description of those who fall through the cracks.

I have a family friend who is dedicated to reconnecting the elderly with children nearby. I know from personal experience how significant that can be. It can be so mutually beneficial that it seems appropriate for such extended families to make a comeback.

Thanks for sharing one of your heartfelt concerns, MB.


MamasBoy said...

"I have a family friend who is dedicated to reconnecting the elderly with children nearby. I know from personal experience how significant that can be. It can be so mutually beneficial that it seems appropriate for such extended families to make a comeback."


That seems like a really neat service/ministry that your friend does. When I lived in the NW, I used to visit a nursing home on a weekly basis and it was really sad to see people who were very disconnected from their families and lonely.

This idea of extended family and elder care and the anonymity of our current system in the US has been on my mind a lot recently with my own personal situation. My grandmother was recently moved by an aunt and uncle to a Sun City, where it is illegal for a child under 18 to live for more than 3 months out of the year. As my aunt who lives there put it, the retirees it seems had other people pay taxes for their children to go to school, but don't want to do the same for children today... except she leaves out the first part of the explanation about how other people paid for her kids to go to school.

This same aunt and uncle that have taken over my grandmother's affairs and are actively trying to keep grandchildren and great grandchildren from visiting often in order to "not burden her." Too often being more than once a year. However, they think that a perfectly good substitution for this personal contact is for my grandma to send $500/year to her great grandchildren. I find the whole concept of money as a substitute for personal contact to be patronizing and disgusting. Patronizing, because my sisters and I put in over 6 times that amount every friggin' month into the SS and medicare system (including employer contributions based on our salaries). Disgusting, because my aunt and uncle's children/grandchildren together visit my grandmother at most once a year (and some have never visited her at all in their entire lifetimes). Growing up and in college, I used to visit my grandmother at least once a month and very often once a week or more. I find the opposition to visits more often than once a year to be asinine to say the least. Building a geriatric bubble (my wife's term) around my elderly grandmother is not healthy and only perpetuates the generational disconnect that America is so famous for.