Did you know that 10.2 million individuals over the age of 60 in the United States are food insecure? In San Diego County there are over 131,000 seniors that aren’t sure where their next meal is coming from or have the ability to grocery shop, let alone cook for themselves. These are not the seniors you see out and about every day. These are seniors that are homebound and have difficulty with daily living activities. Seniors who often need to make hard choices between costs for housing, medications or food.
The senior population, especially those over the age of 85, is one of the fastest growing segments of the population in California and as the Baby Boomers continue to age, they will push these statistics even higher. According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more Americans are living past the age of 100 than ever before. Improved healthcare and other environmental factors have contributed to these increased survival rates leading to advanced ages.
"People are more aware of their health, of the importance of staying active and eating healthy food," according to the CDC report’s author, Jiaquan Xu, M.D., as told to David Beasley in Reuters.
Meals on Wheels San Diego County experiences this longevity factor on a daily basis. Just this past year, Meals on Wheels served 28 individuals over the age of 100. Not only does Meals on Wheels serve more individuals at older ages, but their volunteer ranks are filled with retirees in their 80’s and 90’s. They even have staff members who are still robust and working part time in their 80’s.
As the population ages, there will be an ever increasing demand for meal delivery. Meals on Wheels has grown from its humble beginnings 56 years ago. They began with delivery to 17 individuals and had hospitals provide their food. Now they deliver 451,000 meals a year as they continue to change and adapt to the growing need.
Distributing home-delivered meals and safety checks could not be accomplished without the help of over 2,900 caring volunteers who deliver meals with a hug and a smile and ensure homebound seniors are doing well. Frequently, a Meals on Wheels volunteer is the only person a senior might see all day, providing human contact and a safety net, particularly for those seniors living alone. Lives are saved nearly every week as a result of a Meals on Wheels volunteer securing the proper emergency personnel for someone who has fallen or had a stroke or is simply in need of additional resources.
Meals on Wheels provides meals seven days a week, including holidays. The organization covers the entire county, including meal delivery to the over 3,049 square miles of rural and unincorporated areas. Anyone over the age of 60 may receive a meal and a friendly visit from a Meals on Wheels volunteer and there are no socio-economic requirements.
In 2017, Meals on Wheels has a goal to gain more volunteers of all ages to deliver meals, bring social contact to more seniors throughout the county, and to help keep seniors independent and in their own homes, where they want to be.
Article submitted by Debbie Case, President & CEO Meals on Wheels San Diego County