Helping the aged at home and abroad

October 1 is the International Day of Older Persons. Today, as the number of persons aged 60 and older explodes, my thoughts turn to our elders in need.

Though I post often on the alluring baubles of the marketplace, I'm more gratified by giving to a charity I can trust than in getting more stuff. These statistics about Canadian seniors, from Help the Aged Canada, helped me to select our most recent cause.

"Among seniors, women are more than twice as likely as men to have low incomes.
In 1997, 24% of all women aged 65 and over lived in poverty, compared with 12% of men aged 65 and over. Unattached seniors are far more likely to be poor than those who live in families. In 1997, 45% of all unattached individuals aged 65 and over were considered poor, compared with only 6% of seniors that lived with either their spouse or other immediate family members. Moreover, among seniors who live alone, women are considerably more likely than men to have low incomes. In 1997, almost half of these women (49%) had low incomes, compared with 33% of men."

Those 1997 stats probably have not improved for Canadian women given the decline in retirement savings rates and the damage done in the latest downturn to savings, if these women had any.

Help the Aged Canada funds many programs both within my count
ry and the developing world. We joined their Adopt-a-Gran program, which insures that an elderly man or woman receives medical attention, shelter and the necessities for a dignified life for $27 each month. Our Gran is Haitian, but Grans are from many other countries, too.

I can also contribute to Canadian programs, even local initiatives like Meals on Wheels and drop-in centres. The site features an entire section dedicated to grandmothers of African kids who've lost parents to AIDS.

Ever since I read Betty Jean Wylie and Jean Macfarlane's "Everywoman's Money Book" over 20 years ago, I have been concerned with women's financial life as they aged. I was moved to give to Help the Aged after seeing the inestimable Flora MacDonald, former Member of Parliament and international humanitarian, speak about their projects. And I liked being able to contribute to global and local causes through one efficient organization.

There are so many good causes. How do you decide your giving? What moves you to send money or volunteer?


LPC said…
Good for you. I, unemployed as I am at the moment, have not been giving much and it doesn't feel very good.
Duchesse said…
LPC: My giving ebbs and flows with work, too.
materfamilias said…
We are very fortunate in having two separate projects -- one in Sierra Leone and one in Cambodia -- developed by friends. One project grew after a friend's daughter was killed by a drunk driver and the friend and her husband looked for meaningful ways to honour her and deal with their grief. They travel East to dig wells, build homes, deliver supplies, paint orphanages, whatever needs doing with as much money as they raise at home over the rest of the year. The other project in Sierra Leone grew out of a neighbour connecting with someone he'd done doctoral work in chemistry with years ago -- a student who'd gone back to help rebuild his native Sierra Leone. It's a project that is now being adopted by WHO as a model. We feel so privileged to be able to contribute with this work -- both projects encourage local people to help themselves and provide the means to do that. It's inspiring to watch people willing to do so much for others!
Tiffany said…
I grew up in Southeast Asia, so I started by contributing to Plan projects there. Since then I've expanded at little - we volunteered for a couple of months in Peru, I have 'foster' children in Africa and China and I make a Kiva loan every month.
Duchesse said…
materfamilias: Isn't it wonderful to have a personal connection to your giving? I have noticed that when people have a connection, either through community or friends, they do feel privileged.

Tiffany: We give to Plan and Kiva too- so we have a lot in common.
mette said…
I´m only supporting matters rather locally, only when I know that my donation benefits a good cause. Yearly I give a sum to a medical helicopter. Without the help of individual supporters, these helicopters would not be able to answer calls. There are so many reported cases, when help of any other kind would have arrived too late. The Red Cross does good work too. But, to be honest, there are s o many hands actually demanding for support, that I have come a bit numb and sceptic over the years.
Duchesse said…
metscan: I know what you mean, that's why, when moved by a particular cause, I review their heir record.
s. said…
I give almost exclusively within Canada. We are a rich country, but many people fall through the cracks and many exceptional scientists, etc., who might make remarkable break-throughs, need support. Our nature is second to none but we must steward it better.

So, this year I've given to the Nature Conservancy of Canada; a nursing home that cares for people with Alzheimers; helped buy a furnace for a school that takes "first nation" kids who've been kicked out of mainstream schools; a variety of Salvation Army food banks and produce box programs; the Scott Mission; etc.

I give a minimum of 10% of my post-tax income but try to give more when times are especially good for me or especially bad for others (eg. this year, when the economy has given a drubbing to many).

This article influenced my giving philosophy:
Anonymous said…
Unfortunately, I am one of those women with a low income. Without the help of my very old parents (83 and 82) I dont know how I would cope. I am 59 so too young to receive my pension and too old to work as I used to - my health just wont follow my heart! When I was working, I donated a lot. Even now, I donate but so little... always wishing I could do more. But I console myself reminding me that God makes sure all birds can eat.
Duchesse said…
s.:Thanks for the link to Peter Singer's article. I am familiar with him (and influenced by him too), and hope others will find this informative.

Anonymous @5 a.m.: I'm glad that your family can help. Giving does not have to be money, It can be as simple as being a good neighbour or volunteering your time (to the extent that your health allows)- anything that strengthens a community.
diverchic said…
I give to the Himalayan Institute Hospital Trust ( and have watched this hospital in the foothills of the Himalayas grow to a teaching hospital serving over 1,000 villages in the remote areas. I have had the good luck to visit several times and am always astonished how my little donation goes so far there. I also give to Nature Conservancy, The Council of Canadians, United Way, Salvation Army and others. Mostly I give my time and energy to "build community" as you say. That costs me more than the money does and I'm glad to give it.
sallymandy said…
This is an outstanding post and question you posed at the end of it--what motivates us to donate time or money?

My husband and I, though we don't attend a church any longer, have kept the habit of giving a certain percentage of our income. I allow myself to follow my heart first, and then check in with my head to see if organizations I've chosen this way are financially fit.

The posts with the most