All about Food (Part IV)

Story 4: Meals on Wheels

The lady had the tiniest hands in the world. When she wrapped them around his plum fingers to show her gratitude, he couldn’t help but find his heart sink. Everyone’s talking about aging in place these days. It was a lovely house by the reservoir, and the dining table was the most precious gift from her late husband that she’s not yet ready to part with. He locked the door as her voice echoed in his head. She was begging him to stay and eat with her again.

***

Regular meals add a sense of security, meaning, and structure to an older person’s day, providing feelings of independence and control, and a sense of mastery over the environment. Meals on Wheels are available through privately owned and government funded agencies, and is one of the two key services promised by Title III of the OAA. Studies have shown that seniors receiving meals have better health than their counterparts.

We may be able to combat hunger, but how about loneliness? We may be able to bring food to the table, but not the appetite to swallow it. Can programs be coordinated such that homebound seniors who cannot go to a congregate meal site can still eat with someone sometimes? Being possibly the only person who interacts with homebound seniors on a day-to-day basis, there is a huge potential for MOW workers to help with care monitoring and referral—if they are trained. It’s like training bartenders and hairdressers to be more aware of resources for those with mental health needs.

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About C

If you consider volunteering at a luncheon for older adults as my first exposure to the field, I have been in geropsychology for at least twenty years. As family, friend, volunteer, trainee, and professional, I have found myself in adult day care centers, senior centers, senior living facilities, nursing homes, medical and psychiatric wards, hospice, and personal homes of older adults. Wherever I go, be it an orphanage, a museum, a prison, an airport, or a random corner in the neighborhood, issues related to aging and mental health often come to mind. I used to think that I could make a difference only if I became a top-notch researcher, educator, or clinician. As I continue to follow this meandering path, it dawns on me that as a nobody in the field, I can still add my light to the sum of light by sharing what I know. Over the years, I have "converted" a few very dedicated individuals to focus on aging-related work within their respective disciplines and encouraged a handful more to stay in this field despite its winding course. I believe by bringing aging and mental health issues to the foreground, we will amass a stronger force to promote advocacy, research, and quality care.
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