Food security and hunger are issues that can strike at any point in life, and many Americans struggle with putting food on the table on a day to day basis. One of the more vulnerable groups is the elder population, particularly those without a strong network of friends and family. Physical limitations and restricted income can also play a role in making it difficult to eat well. Luckily, there are multiple programs that can help supplement an elder’s diet with healthy food and their lives with company.
Meals on Wheels and Other Resources for Elderly Food Security
by Suzanne Modigliani, LICSW, CMC — Aging Life Care Association™ Member and Fellow of the Leadership Academy
The very simple matter of older adults getting a meal on the table can become very complicated. Physical limitations can make shopping almost impossible. Friends and family cannot always pick up the slack for a home bound individual. Even if supplies are on hand, the chore of assembling a meal, including standing at a stove, can range from challenging to unsafe.
Aging Life Care Managers know many resources in local communities to help seniors stay as independent as possible. For many, home is their chosen environment. A program called Meals on Wheels is a lifesaver. There are slight variations across the country, but most communities have a non-profit which supplies nutritious hot meals to seniors over age 60 at lunch time. In addition to the nutritional value, this is a daily check in. This provides social interaction, which is an important factor for well being. If the elder does not answer the door, there is an alert called to a concerned person to find out what could be wrong. There is no charge for the meals, but a donation may be requested.
Aging Life Care Managers will be informed about other meal options in their communities. These range from frozen meals delivered by national companies to local private chefs who deliver custom meals. Seniors who attend adult day health programs receive a nutritious lunch and often breakfast and a snack as well. Some senior housing sites have a dining room where residents can purchase a meal and eat with others; however, I am not referring to assisted living, where all meals are provided.
Adequate nutrition is necessary for health, functionality and the ability to remain independent. Healthy eating can increase mental acuity, resistance to illness and disease, energy levels, immune system strength, recuperation speed and the ability to manage chronic health problems. Meals on Wheels ensures that seniors have access to adequate nutrition even when family support, mobility and resources are lacking.
For many seniors, the trusted Meals on Wheels volunteer or staff member who shows up every day with a hot meal and a warm smile is the only person they see or speak with all day. This special delivery is the reason to get up in the morning, something to look forward to, and a reminder to take good care of themselves. Seniors traveling to group settings for meals also receive valuable social interaction and companionship. All of us can attest that a meal can be much more than the food on the plate, but also the company across the table.
Along with the inevitable impacts of aging come the increased risks of medical emergencies, falls and other accidents. The safety check that accompanies each meal delivery ensures that, in the case of an emergency or problem, medics will be called, families will be notified and our seniors will not be forgotten.
About the author: Suzanne Modigliani, LICSW, CMC is an Aging Life Care Specialist™ in Brookline, MA who works with families to find solutions to complicated elder care problems. She has been a leader in the Aging Life Care Association and quoted extensively in the media as seen on her website modiglianigeriatrics.com.
This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute, nor is it intended to be a substitute for, professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Information on this blog does not necessarily reflect official positions of the Aging Life Care Association™ and is provided “as is” without warranty. Always consult with a qualified professional with any particular questions you may have regarding your or a family member’s needs.