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Seniorgram: Sending a Message on Senior Issues

Roseann MartocciaRoseann MartocciaIn the winter of 2013 and spring of 2014, Meals on Wheels America conducted a research project to evaluate various methods of meal delivery and their effectiveness. Interviews of 626 participants in eight states (Massachusetts was not a site for this project) were conducted. The study also sought to better understand the population of Meals on Wheels recipients and benefits of the program from their perspective.

The nutrition program is one of the largest Older Americans Act programs, with 40% of the appropriation providing meals service. In 2012, the home-delivered meals program, also commonly referred to as Meals on Wheels, served over 135 million meals to more than 841,000 participants across the country. The program is designed to address problems of food insecurity, encourage socialization, and promote the health and wellbeing of older persons through nutrition and nutrition-related services.

Over the years, federal, state, and local funding cuts along with increased food and transportation costs have resulted in many programs cutting back, using waiting lists, and, as a result, reducing both the number of people served and total meals provided. LifePath has been fortunate not to restrict meals served through Meals on Wheels due in large part to the financial support and contributions of our community.

Robert WheelerThe study used a randomized control trial of home-delivered meals programs with sites in Texas, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, New Jersey, and Rhode Island through surveys and interviews. All participants were on waiting lists and divided into three groups. Group 1 began receiving a daily, traditional meal delivery; Group 2 received frozen, once weekly meal delivery; and Group 3 (control group) remained on the waiting list.

Key findings of the randomized control trial research included the following conclusions. The study suggested that daily delivery of meals eases older adults’ worries about their ability to age in place, thereby providing a sense of security and confidence. The study also found that daily, delivered meals decrease the likelihood of falling among individuals with a history of falls. There is a growing body of evidence that suggests that fear of falling may constitute an important risk factor for unnecessary restriction of activity that can lead to greater disability, decreased social activity, and ultimately reduced ability to live independently. The study findings also suggest that participants who receive daily, delivered meals feel safer in their homes. Feeling safe is an emotional state and includes factors such as trust, knowing, control, and hope. Further research to quantify and better understand this finding is needed.

The More Than a Meal Pilot Research Study was produced by Meals on Wheels America and conducted by Brown University through a grant provided by AARP Foundation. Go to for more information.

Roseann MartocciaRoseann MartocciaInternational Women’s Day (IWD) has been observed in the United States since the early 1900s and is an official holiday in more than 25 nations around the world. Since 1913, it has been celebrated on March 8, in recognition of both challenges and accomplishments by and for women.

Initially, IWD coincided with campaigns striving to grant women the right to vote. The day has been used as a focal point to draw attention to difficult working conditions, economic inequality, and underrepresentation of women in business leadership and political office. The United Nations designated 1975 as “International Women’s Year” and held an annual IWD conference to coordinate international efforts for women’s rights and participation in social, political and economic processes.

Today, many organizations and governments hold large-scale events honoring women’s advancement as well as providing a forum for continued vigilance and action required to ensure that women’s equality is gained and maintained in all aspects of life. In this millennium, we see a significant change and shift toward the equality of women in many parts of the world. Work has been a consistent pillar among the themes to which IWD has strived to bring attention to and make improvements toward, on behalf of women.

Women as workers and caregivers - the numbers

What impact does caregiving have on women and their paid work? As reported by the Family Caregiver Alliance, a national study on women and caregiving highlighted the conflicting demands of work and caring. Findings of the study include that:

33% of working women decreased work hours
29% passed up a job promotion, training or assignment
22% took a leave of absence
20% went from fulltime to part-time employment
16% quit their jobs
13% retired early

Families and those who are caregivers for others do so with their loved ones in mind. Families often negotiate how and by whom care will be provided in their family or support system. This delicate balancing act is carried out to the best of caregivers’ abilities, while they cope with the combined demands of caring for a loved one and the need for income, getting assistance from home and community based services available to them and working out the best job option given other responsibilities in their life.

Whether women or men, caregivers contribute so much to those they help and save public expenditures. At the same time, in many cases caregiving has an economic impact on the ability of caregivers to earn wages through paid work.

Learn about caregiving supports that are available through LifePath here, or visit,, or for additional information. For information on economic security in MA, go to

Roseann MartocciaRoseann Martoccia

Falls in Massachusetts are such an important public health issue that there is a permanent Commission on Falls Prevention established by statute. Falls and fall-related injuries are a risk to older residents and impose a significant public health burden on the health care system treating persons who fall. Falls are the leading cause of injuries and injury deaths for people 65 and older.

The numbers are staggering:

  • In 2010 falls among older adults in the state resulted in 40,000 emergency department (ED) visits, more than half (21,000) resulted in hospital stays, and 434 resulted in death.
  • Non-fatal fall-related injuries are also on the rise. During the eight year period of 2002 to 2010, age adjusted rates of ED visits for fall-related injuries increased 8%, and hospital stays increased by 10%.
  • Falls have debilitating results. One in five falls is associated with a traumatic brain injury (TBI), and one in ten involves a fracture of the hip or femur. Nine out of ten older adults who are hospitalized for a hip/femur fracture require post acute long term care after their hospital stay.
  • Acute care hospital charges associated with fall related injuries in 2010 totaled over $630 million. Estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) approximate the lifetime medical and work loss cost of fall injuries among MA older adults sustained in 2010 to be over $8.5 billion.

Tai ChiKeep your confidence on your feet and prevent a dangerous fall from occuring by staying active no matter your age. Learn to maintain your balance with safe moving practices for falls prevention with Healthy Living workshops: Tai Chi for Healthy Living and Matter of Balance.The first phase of the work of the MA Commission on Falls Prevention was to assess the current landscape in the areas of data and surveillance, community-based falls prevention, practice among providers in various clinical environments, and, lastly, public education and communication. This phase sets the stage for each topic area to work on the recommendations and directions for the next phase of the work to improve education, clinical practice and communication among providers and across settings, enhance community involvement, and understand the data and impact through continued analysis.

Common themes which emerged from formative research and the literature regarding knowledge, attitudes, and behavior about falls as reported by individuals include:

  • “It’s normal”: Many older adults believe that falling is a normal part of aging.
  • “Not me”: Many older adults did not think that falls prevention messages were personally relevant.
  • Fear of falling: Many older adults are afraid of falling.
  • Fear of loss and independence: Older adults may not discuss falls or participate in falls prevention for fear it will lead to loss of their independence.
  • Fear of stigma and embarrassment.

A fall can happen to anyone, regardless of age. It’s best to keep active and moving no matter your age and to be careful, especially in the winter months.

Roseann MartocciaRoseann MartocciaThe term “hidden hunger” can be applied to the increasing number of older adults who live alone and aren't getting the food they need. In 2013, 2.9 million senior households (9 percent) experienced food insecurity, which means being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.

While there are many reasons elders go without adequate amounts of food, hunger is not always visible. Many factors can contribute to hunger, including loneliness, isolation, depression, medication interactions, sensory changes, dementia, financial hardships, medication issues, and concern about what others think.

Persons living alone are twice as likely to experience hunger. Seniors living alone with health and mobility issues have a harder time cooking, preparing meals, and shopping, and they may not have enough money. Changing senses (e.g., fewer taste buds, decreased sense of smell, lessened ability to manage plates and utensils), disease, and poor dentition may also contribute to elders not eating well or enough. Older adults with dementia and/or memory loss may not remember to eat or be able to manage nutrition on their own. Food-insecure older adults are more likely than those who are food secure to be at higher risk for a number of diseases, a weakened immune system, increasing risk of infection, poor wound healing, and muscle weakness – which, in turn, leads to falls and fractures.

How can we each be alert and help elders who may not be eating well or enough?

Understand the impact of poor nutrition

Learn about how the body uses nutrition and the risks and consequences if you don't get what you need.

Notice changes

If you're a caregiver or a neighbor, check on older adults living alone and make sure they seem healthy, alert, and well-nourished. Look in the refrigerator and check the cupboards, look at food expiration dates, and take note of weight gains or losses and changes in appetite.

Explore resources for food

Meals on Wheels, meal preparation, or inviting a person to lunch may go a long way to helping a person with their nutrition and food expenses and improving their social connections. Don’t go it alone – coordinate friends and family by asking them to bring a meal once a week or once a month.

Explore financial resources

If money is an issue and an older adult needs help paying for food, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides monthly monetary benefits for designated food items. Other resources that can also help stretch one’s food budget are the monthly “Brown Bag” of groceries or Senior Farmers’ Market Coupons.

Help out

Volunteer your time or donate to local organizations, such as Meals on Wheels, food banks, nonprofit organizations, senior centers, and churches.

It’s simple – be aware, visit and advocate for your neighbor.