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.