Hot Meals for the Elderly
According to the most recent census, there are 20,414 people age 60+ living in Franklin County. Approximately 5% of them are homebound seniors struggling to remain independent in their own homes. Many of these homebound seniors have little to no family support. They live on limited incomes and rely on programs such as OATS, Franklin County Transportation Council and their local senior centers to help them maintain their independence, their health and their social lives. Franklin County Area United Way currently provides funding for eight senior centers, Mid-East Area Agency on Aging, the Meals-On-Wheels Program of the Washington Presbyterian Church, Franklin County Transportation Council, and OATS.
Mid-East Area Agency on Aging (MEAAA) operates four senior centers in Franklin County - one each in Washington, Union, St. Clair and Sullivan. These senior centers all deliver meals to homebound seniors. The Washington Senior Center delivers 65 hot meals a day (M-F). They deliver in Washington, but also take hot meals to New Haven where volunteers from the New Haven Senior Center pick them up and deliver in the New Haven area. The Union Senior Center delivers 75 hot meals daily (M-F), and St. Clair delivers 140 hot meals every day. They run six routes including ones to Robertsville, Catawissa and Lonedell. Meals are delivered by unpaid volunteers.
The Sullivan Senior Center also delivers meals to homebound seniors - but theirs are frozen and delivered only once a week. The rising costs of food plus decreased government funding have made it impossible for the Sullivan Senior Center to continue to deliver hot meals. The other senior centers are facing the same fate, unless individuals in local communities step up to help.
"The Meals on Wheels program is in need of local community support which includes monetary donations and volunteers," says Mary Schaefer, Director of MEAAA. "Our goal is to continue to serve all the people who need meals, but the senior centers must receive more community support to keep hot meals going out." Schaefer noted that government funding for MEAAA was cut back in 2009 and has not since increased to what it was in 2008. Not only have costs risen during this time, but the number of elderly has also increased.
Cutting back on home delivery is one way for the centers to stretch money, but it is a huge loss for the folks who have been receiving those daily hot meals. Many of them rely on daily delivery of meals to keep them out of nursing homes. Some don't see well enough or have the ability to get up and prepare a frozen meal, and others simply don't remember to do so. They miss the daily visit provided by the volunteers as well, because without that regular contact, they become even more isolated. Those daily check-ins have actually saved lives. A Washington volunteer recently found a woman on the floor of her home when he went to deliver her meal. She had lain there for a whole weekend. She was dehydrated and had pneumonia. She probably would have died if she had lain there for an entire week.
The senior centers do so much more than provide meals, though. They each provide wonderful programs to improve health such as yoga, cardiac stretching and strength training. They have ceramics classes, painting classes, and, of course, BINGO. They also provide educational programs to help the elderly learn how to protect themselves from scams, what to do if they fall, and other important topics. Your donation to Franklin County Area United Way helps provide some of these special programs, however they need additional help to continue the good work they are doing for seniors in Franklin County. Would you consider volunteering to deliver meals for your local center? The reward is as great for those who deliver meals as for those who receive them. Give it a try and you will be forever changed for the better!