The Common Good

When Grandma Can’t Eat

Increased health concerns and decreased mobility are natural challenges that accompany aging. While experiencing this stage of life’s cycle is unavoidable, our society seeks to care and protect for our eldest citizens through programs like Medicare and Social Security. For Christians, such programs help fulfill the Scriptural call to care for widows, respect the wisdom of our elders, and protect the dignity of all those created in God’s image.

Given the long careers many senior citizens have enjoyed, we assume their own savings — supplemented by these social safety net programs — provide for a secure retirement. Far too often though, America’s seniors are struggling to get by. Rising prescription drug costs, increased health care needs, and other expenses prove too much for their fixed budgets.

As a recent story focusing on Elkhart County in Indiana reminds us that the consequences for seniors can be severe:

"For many senior citizens coming to the Council on Aging of Elkhart County, putting food at the bottom of their household budgets is a matter of being practical. They cannot have their heat disconnected in the winter and they cannot live without their medications, but they can eat less."

The article goes on to mention that this troubling trend is a nationwide problem:

"According to the report “Hunger in America 2010,” an estimated 37 million low-income individuals, representing a 46 percent increase from 2006, received emergency food assistance from Feeding America’s network of food banks and partnering agencies."

As Congress continues to wage a war of political ideology over budget cuts and entitlement programs, they need to remember that these abstract policy debates have real consequences for millions of Americans. 

Deciding between funding programs that feed the hungriest Americans versus giving tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans is not really a choice, at least not when it comes to the demands of the Gospel.

Beau Underwood is Campaigns Manager for Sojourners.

Image: OneSmallSquare /

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