After surgery, Mr. Smith didn’t know how he was going to prepare his daily meals. He was homebound, without a support system, but he knew that good nutrition would be essential to his recovery. So he called Senior Services of Alexandria (SSA) to ask about the Meals on Wheels program, and soon began receiving healthful, balanced meals seven days a week.
As Mr. Smith recovered, he reduced the number of deliveries, but called SSA’s office to let the staff know how much he enjoyed the food. He credited Meals on Wheels with restoring him to good health. And when he decided to stop receiving meals, he called to thank SSA. We assured him that we were always ready to help when needed.
Mr. Smith’s story is not unique, but it is a testament to the vital importance of proper nutrition in keeping older adults mentally and physically healthy. Aging often brings reduced physical activity and physiological changes that impact the types of nutrients seniors need in their diet. Decreased appetite and reduced income often result in poor eating habits that can be a detriment to a long and healthy life. About 10 million, or 1 in 6, older adults, face the threat of hunger each year.*
A balanced diet of vegetables, fruits and protein will provide the nutrients needed, but homebound older adults can’t shop for fresh groceries and may find it challenging to prepare healthful meals each day. Meals on Wheels can make all the difference in getting fresh, nutritious food to our most vulnerable seniors.
The program also provides a vital connection to the community because volunteers deliver more than a meal. They are the eyes and ears that alert SSA when a client needs additional support or intervention to ensure their health and safety.
The City of Alexandria’s Division on Aging and Adult Services and SSA work together to deliver meals to Alexandria’s older adults 365 days a year. Clients receive two meals each day: a hot meal including a protein and vegetables, and a cold meal pack with ingredients for a salad, sandwich and fruit. Deliveries are made Monday through Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to noon, and on Sunday, noon to 2:00 p.m.
To be eligible for subsidized meals, residents must be at least 60 years old and homebound. SSA also offers a private-pay program for older adults who are not homebound or who may only need short-term assistance when recovering from a health crisis, at a cost of $10 a day. There is no income threshold for either program. More than 500 volunteers deliver meals, with a smile and compassion for older people who need a little extra support.
Winter can be especially difficult for older adults. If you know of anyone who could use Meals on Wheels, please encourage them to contact SSA at 703-836-4414, ext. 115 or email Nathan Toews at firstname.lastname@example.org.
MaryAnne Beatty is the Director of Community Outreach for Senior Services of Alexandria.
*www.mealsonwheelsamerica.org/research – Hunger in Older Adults – Challenges and Opportunities for the Aging Services Network – 2017