January 22, 2019

Unbound elders less lonely, hungry

Survey finds elders have more access to medicine, nutrition

Unbound elders

Elders in Unbound experience less loneliness and social isolation, a lower incidence of hunger and greater access to health care, a survey of 600 sponsored and non-sponsored older adults in Latin America, Asia and Africa found.

Unbound staff interviewed 300 elders sponsored at least two years and 300 who are on the waiting list to be sponsored. All were selected at random. A key finding was that sponsored elders experience a lower sense of emptiness, less frequent feelings of rejection and fewer moments of missing people being around.

“Loneliness is an emotional aspect,” Becky Findley, international evaluation manager at Unbound, said. “For it to get that deep, it really speaks to the quality of life beyond basic needs.”

More choices for food and medical care

Sponsored elders worry less about having enough food and have greater choice in what they eat compared with those in the non-sponsored group, the survey found. In addition, they have more access to health care.

“Fewer sponsored elders are having to compromise when it comes to medicine and medical care,” Findley said. “They’re less likely to delay getting care and less likely to seek alternative medicines.”

Belonging to a caring community

Elders in Unbound number 31,000. They’re eligible for the program at 60 years old, but many enter at a later age. A majority of sponsored elders, 65 percent, will participate in the program for the remainder of their lives.

Because of poverty, abandonment and isolation, “elders are some of the most marginalized members of our human family,” Unbound’s president and CEO, Scott Wasserman, said. “Unbound sponsorship manifests the inherent dignity of elders. Our sponsorship program brings them from the margins into the center, as full partners in a community of compassion.”

The U.N. projected that by 2050, 80 percent of the world’s senior population — an estimated 1.7 billion people 60 and older — will live in less developed regions. Unbound is the only major U.S.-based organization to sponsor elders, and 2019 marks the 35th anniversary of the elder program.

Besides financial support and gaining a friend in another part of the world to correspond with, elders benefit from being part of a local Unbound community of sponsored children and youth, families and staff. Social workers in particular play a vital role in accompanying elders through challenges related to health, isolation and neglect.

Read the full evaluation report here.