As we age, our bodies change. As a result, nutritional needs change, and health problems become more common. One of the best ways to help maintain a healthy body is to nurture physical and mental health through nutritionally balanced meals and a healthy living situation. But many seniors in the United States cannot maintain a healthy lifestyle because of chronic health problems and disabilities.
These conditions can limit mobility and a senior’s ability to perform typical activities of daily life (ADLs) and instrumental activities of daily life (IADLs), so they may be unable to drive or walk to a grocery store or cook meals. Seniors who don’t have access to regular and nutritionally balanced meals are at risk of malnutrition. Malnutrition can lead to many new and worsening health conditions. Additionally, it is easy to become socially isolated when mobility is limited. Isolated seniors are at a higher risk for mental health problems, including anxiety and depression.
Meals on Wheels for seniors is on a mission to change this situation one senior at a time. Through their meal delivery program, seniors in need have healthy food delivered right to their doors, ready to go. No meal prep or cooking is required. This program ensures that seniors eat healthy food regularly, which benefits their mental and physical health. This program aims to help seniors live independently in their homes.
The Benefits of Home-Delivered Meals
For many seniors, getting healthy meals regularly is a struggle. They may be unable to get to a grocery store because they cannot drive and there is no store within walking distance. Gas stations are the only food source within walking distance in many areas. And while gas stations have food available, it is usually packaged and high in sodium. This also means that these seniors are repeatedly eating the same meals and lacking any nutritional variety.
Even if they can get groceries, cooking nutritionally balanced meals takes time and energy that these seniors may not have. Seniors that are socially isolated do not have friends or family that can regularly cook for them or bring them meals.
A meal delivery program eliminates some of that worry. With fresh, healthy meals delivered right to the front door, seniors can worry less about food and take care of themselves better. Having meals delivered on a set schedule helps reduce malnutrition but also stress and anxiety about money, transportation, and cooking.
Meals on Wheels works with certified dietitians to ensure that each meal received is nutritionally balanced and delicious. The menu incorporates the entire food pyramid by including:
- Bread or grains
- Low-fat milk or a milk alternative
Additionally, these nutritional meal plans are set on an eight-week cycle to include seasonal products and variety. All meals are also low in sodium.
These Healthy Meals for Seniors are designed to provide the recommended nutrients for seniors. Some of the nutrients included that are important for senior health are:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
Each meal has specific target amounts of fats, sodium, and fiber. This way, each senior is getting a nutritionally balanced meal and also a nutritionally balanced diet.
There are so many benefits of healthy eating for seniors. Eating balanced and nutritious meals can help slow the progress of chronic health problems and help prevent new ones from happening. Balanced meals also help seniors maintain healthy muscle mass, bones, and joints.
Senior Independence and Quality of Life
Being unable to care for themselves and live independently is a sad reality for many seniors. Without family or friends to help them regularly, many seniors have to leave their homes to live in a care facility. And while these facilities provide a vital service, seniors can live independently for longer with the proper support.
Having the ability to live independently is essential to the physical and mental health of seniors. There are several benefits of senior independence, both for themselves and for the community!
They usually feel more like individuals and can express a sense of self. When people struggle with chronic health problems or financial burdens, they sometimes feel like they cannot decide anything for themselves anymore. They don’t live in their own house, choose their own food, or make fundamental life decisions. This can lead to anger about their situation and depression.
Living independently can also help give seniors a sense of purpose. When seniors lose independence, they often feel isolated, negatively affecting their mental health. Living an active and independent life lets seniors set and achieve their goals. This gives them a sense that they have a purpose and allows them to contribute to their own lives.
Meals in Wheels of Contra Costa and our partners helps seniors by creating a network of people who work to ensure they can stay in their homes and be independent as long as possible.
Meals on Wheels delivery drivers do more than deliver meals. They are the eyes and ears of the program. Each time they deliver a meal, they check in to ensure everything is going alright. If there is a problem, even one unrelated to the program, the delivery driver will pass it along to the appropriate person, and they will do everything they can to help. Meals and Wheels is not just designed to deliver food. It’s designed to create a support network to help seniors in all aspects of their lives.
The check-ins also provide another valuable service to aid in senior independence. They help isolated seniors get social interaction. For many seniors with limited mobility and no close family, seeing their driver may be the highlight of their day. The two can catch up and talk about their lives for a few minutes. This simple act creates connections that can help reduce anxiety and depression. Again, this is a simple but valuable service.
Preventing Senior Malnutrition
Malnutrition in seniors is an unfortunately common problem. Many factors can bring this on. As people age, their tastes sometimes change, and foods that once tasted great now taste wrong. This can cause seniors to lose their appetites. Additionally, appetite changes can be caused by changing hormones, health conditions, or medication.
Physical changes can also cause problems with appetite. For example, teeth weaken as people age, so dental problems are common. Losing teeth can make chewing difficult and negatively affect the taste and texture of food. And as they age, many older adults have difficulties swallowing. This can make eating extremely slow and exhausting. It is also a choking concern.
When seniors lose their appetite or cannot eat the way they used to, they may be deficient in critical vitamins and minerals. This will affect their health in the short and long term. A body not getting the proper nutrition cannot maintain itself or fight off sickness.
At Meals on Wheels, we understand the various difficulties with senior independence and eating and do our best to deliver food that seniors will be able to eat and enjoy. Our meals are all designed to have all the right vitamins and minerals so that every bite counts.
Impact on a Senior’s Health and Wellbeing
Meals on Wheels of Contra Costa County is a meal delivery service that believes in senior independence and a whole lot more. Through a network of hardworking staff and volunteers, we work to provide seniors in need with the tools to stay active and independent in their homes. These meals are more than just any food. These are nutritionally balanced to provide all the vitamins and minerals needed for seniors while helping in the fight against senior malnutrition. Our check-in program also ensures that each recipient gets the support they need for all aspects of life, not just food.
Reach out today to see if you or your loved one qualifies for the program. Or check out our volunteer program if you want to be part of the team.