Meals on Wheels of Contra Costa is a senior meal program that brings food straight to the doors of seniors in need. These seniors are usually over 60 and in great need because of disability, disease, or isolation.
At a glance, it may look like this is just a standard food delivery service, but it’s so much more. Meals on Wheels is looking out for seniors in their diets, mental health, and physical health. This meal delivery program not only helps in the fight against senior food insecurity, but the social network built through the program helps keep seniors independent and in their own homes.
Senior Mental Health
Seniors’ mental health tends to get overlooked as their physical health declines. But losing mobility and cognitive function is disheartening. Depression is common in seniors that are socially isolated because of physical ailments. They feel cut off from friends and family.
A decline in physical health also commonly leads to a loss of independence. Most homes are not designed to be wheelchair accessible or do not have handrails or other mobility aids. Adding these into a home may take time and money or be impossible for the space. Many seniors end up moving to care facilities where professionals can take care of them. But when this happens, people feel they have lost their autonomy. They feel like they cannot make any decisions for themselves, and this can lead to depression or other mental health problems.
But here at Meals on Wheels, we understand the problems that seniors face, and we do our best to lend a helping hand.
Our partner agencies employ volunteer delivery drivers that bring food to each and everyone one of our seniors. They do have another job as well: they perform wellness checks for every person on their route. These check-ins serve several purposes.
They bring much-needed social interaction right to the recipients. This is especially valuable for seniors with limited mobility who rarely leave the house. Humans are social by nature and living in social isolation damages mental health. Feeling isolated can lead to depression and other mental health problems. These check-ins offer seniors a chance to form a connection with someone and share how their life has been going. For many people on a Meals on Wheels route, this is the highlight of their day.
These check-ins also connect seniors with a network of people who can help with everyday problems. The delivery drivers pass on information and requests to others in the organization who can send referrals for health care services, mental health services, or even construction or utility services.
Our goal is to ensure that every senior on our route has the resources to live independently in their homes. We do this through a network of caring staff and volunteers who want to make a difference in seniors’ lives.
Independence through Health
Our check-in program provides seniors with social interaction and a helping network that gives them some tools they need to stay independent. But the meals themselves are an essential tool too.
Because each meal provides the necessary vitamins and minerals seniors need, these meals help keep seniors healthy. A good diet can help manage chronic health problems and may prevent new problems from happening. A healthy diet also helps keep muscles, bones, and joints strong and healthy. One of the most significant factors in determining if a senior can live independently is their fall risk. Not only are falls more common as you get older, but bones become more brittle and take longer to heal properly. And if a senior lives alone and falls, they may be unable to get up and call for help. A simple slip can quickly turn into a dangerous situation.
This is why we work to get every senior a healthy and balanced meal. Healthy food will not keep people from aging, but it might make the process smoother.
Senior Food Insecurity
The USDA recognizes two types of food insecurities. The first is called low food security, characterized by poor quality food or a diet with little variety. This generally happens when a person only has pre-packaged food available or doesn’t have the means to cook for themselves.
The second is called very low food security and is characterized by reduced food intake and hunger. Low food security occurs when there are issues with access to food to money. For example, a person may eat very little to make one meal into two or skip meals.
Seniors are at high risk for food insecurity because of issues with chronic health problems, new health problems, and a lack of money. Many seniors can no longer work to earn money because of health problems or disabilities.
These problems have worsened in recent years because of the Covid 19 pandemic and the recent price spike for groceries. Seniors are at risk of having compromised immune systems, so many could not safely go grocery shopping during the pandemic. And while the pandemic is no longer causing nationwide shutdowns, many seniors are still cautious about going to public places, including grocery stores.
The pandemic and recent economic problems have also caused nationwide shortages of staple items and a rise in grocery prices. For someone on a tight budget, grocery shopping is getting difficult, and many people cannot afford the food they would normally buy.
This, along with the typical reasons for food insecurity in seniors, has made maintaining a balanced and nutritious diet difficult.
Benefits of Meal on Wheels Service For You Or Your Loved One
There are many great benefits to signing up for Meals on Wheels for yourself or a loved one. Having healthy meals delivered right to your door eliminates worries about going to the grocery store or whether or not you can afford healthy food.
The program also brings you into a support system designed to give you and your loved one help in all aspects of your life, from getting mobility aids to finding the right doctor. Wellness checks with every delivery make this network possible. These check-ins also give everyone social interaction and connection to a larger community, which is vital for mental health.
Meals on Wheels also helps reduce food insecurity in seniors and increases the chances for them to live independently in their own homes.
How To Get Meals On Wheels
Signing up for Meals on Wheels is easy. To start, give us a call to determine if you’re eligible. If you are, you’ll fill out an intake form to help us understand your individual needs and history. Once complete, we’ll send you a welcome packet with delivery dates, times, protocols, and other information.
Ways To Contribute to the Program
If you don’t need to sign up for the program but want to help out, consider looking into how to become a Meals on Wheels volunteer. Volunteering is rewarding because the time you give out of your day directly and positively impacts the seniors in your community.
And if you don’t have the time to volunteer but still want to help, consider donating. Meals on Wheel relies on donations to help every senior they can. The money you donate goes directly to getting meals and wellness checks to seniors in your area.