CM *absolutely* is a way to get a newer version of Android on your phone
Last phone : 2011 Xperia Pro, shipped with Gingerbread, updated to a mostly complete ICS. CM support - up to Marshmallow.
Current phone - 2012 Motorola Photon Q with SIM card mod. Shipped with ICS. Now on Marshmallow.
Without CM both phones would be bricks without up to date security patches. Not all phones have as much support, but many do.