- Written by Barbara Bodzin, Executive Director
- Published: 28 February 2020
There are celebrations across the nation throughout the month of March, commemorating over 45 years since the establishment of the Meals on Wheels Program. Locally, this program was built on, and is sustained by, the commitment and dedication of LifePath staff and volunteers and is made possible through the support of businesses, sponsors, funders and donors. Meals on Wheels provides a vital nutritional lifeline and social connection to elders within our communities.
The elder population is growing exponentially. Today, 1 in 5 Americans is 60 or older with 12,000 more turning 60 each day. We’ve learned a lot about health risks associated with aging and have developed a range of preventative responses to many of these risks. More recently we’ve gained important insights into the connection between isolation, depression, nutrition, and associated risk factors which can have a dramatic impact on one’s health and wellbeing.
Here are some sobering statistics, according to Meals on Wheels America:
- 9.5 million elders are threatened by hunger, with nearly 5.5 million experiencing food insecurity.
- Food insecurity in the elder population is driven by the high numbers of elders living in poverty in this country. Specifically, 7.1 million elders have a retirement income of $234 a week or less making it extremely difficult for these retirees to pay for all of their basic needs.
- 1 in 4 elders live alone and of those, 20% report feeling lonely. Social isolation is, in and of itself, a risk factor for poor health. Combined with the impacts of food insecurity and malnutrition, this cohort is at great risk of experiencing multiple chronic health conditions.
- 83% of elders who are low income and food insecure are not receiving the meals they need, and those in need of improved nutrition report fair or poor health, not having enough money to buy the food they need, and screen positive for depression.
Area Agencies on Aging, such as LifePath, and Councils on Aging, are making a difference in the lives of these elders every day. Congregate Meals programs often located at Senior Centers provide excellent opportunities for making new connections and socializing with friends and neighbors.
It is not unusual for the meals driver to be the only contact for an elder all day.
The Meals on Wheels program provides healthful daily nutrition, a wellness check, and socialization, intended to both improve nutrition and reduce isolation and depression. It is not unusual for the meals driver to be the only contact for an elder all day. LifePath is committed to providing Meals on Wheels to each elder in need of this essential service. This program is fiscally dependent on volunteer drivers to deliver meals throughout our rural communities, regardless of how remote the location might be.