- Written by Carmela Lanza-Weil, Event Coordinator
- Published: 28 April 2015
Alarms are raised almost daily in the media about rising health care costs, the aging population, and resource scarcity in the United States. Meals on Wheels (MOW), a national program administered locally by LifePath, effectively addresses two of these issues: rising costs and the well-being of the elderly. The program provides a hot, home-delivered meal and wellness check to over 500 elders every day in thirty towns throughout western Massachusetts. The LifePath program serves needy seniors immediately upon identification of need, setting it apart from the majority of Meals on Wheels programs; wait times in most programs range from a few days to up to six months or longer. The obvious importance of no waiting period for those needing assistance motivates the staff and community each year to support the Meals on Wheels Walkathon. Without the Walkathon proceeds, LifePath would have too large a funding gap to continue to serve area elders without delay.
Elders applying for MOW are generally frail, unable to shop or cook for themselves, and often socially isolated. Elders receiving MOW report positive outcomes, including better nutrition, improved quality of life, and the ability to live at home for a longer time, all of which are goals of the program.
More than a meal
But does it really work? To find out, in March 2015, the More Than a Meal Pilot Research Study was conducted by Brown University and produced by Meals on Wheels America (MOWA). The study was commissioned, in part, as a response to a new trend that seeks to save money by replacing the MOW hot meal and wellness check with weekly delivered frozen meals and no wellness check. The study followed over 600 seniors in eight municipalities across the country for 15 weeks to investigate the impact of the MOW program on adults at least 60 years of age. The subjects were divided into three groups: those who received hot meals and a wellness check, those who received a frozen meal (with no wellness check), and those who received no meal assistance at all.
The study’s findings concluded the following:
- Nearly twice as many elders on waiting lists for MOW reported depression and anxiety compared to elders in general.
- Those who received daily-delivered meals experienced the greatest improvements in health and quality of life indicators over the study period compared to the other two groups.
- Those who lived alone and received daily delivered meals were more likely to report improved peace of mind about being able to remain in their home and less likely to report feelings of isolation and loneliness over the study period, compared to the other two groups (Source: Executive Summary. March 2, 2015).
The costs of MOW, while substantial, are dwarfed by the costs of the alternatives. According to MOWA, it costs less to provide a senior with Meals on Wheels for an entire year than it costs to spend one day in the hospital or six days in a nursing home (Source). The MOW program helps everyone, particularly the vulnerable elders of our community.
LifePath continues "no waitlist" tradition
The study shows what LifePath has known for years: elders who need home-delivered meals must have them right away. To make sure the agency could avoid waiting lists for MOW, LifePath has an annual Meals on Wheels Walkathon. The 23rd annual Walkathon is on Saturday, May 2, starting at 8am at the Franklin County Technical School. The annual event relies on sponsors, walk teams, and community contributions to raise the funds needed to continue the program. All are invited to make a gift at the event or send checks made out to Meals on Wheels, LifePath, 101 Munson St., Suite 201, Greenfield, MA 01301.