Q: On a recent Sunday I gave an older woman who attends our church a ride home. When we arrived at her residence she was unsteady as she got out of the car. I asked if she was not feeling well and she became teary eyed as she finally admitted she hadn’t had a full meal in days. After I helped her inside I immediately went to the grocery store to buy her food. I realize this will not solve her problem over the long term and I can’t ignore the situation she is in. Are there resources to assist her and is this a problem with a lot of seniors?
A: It is estimated there are one in six older adults in our country who face the threat of not being adequately nourished. Some studies indicate 50 percent of older adults could be considered malnourished. In years past we referred to the issue of hunger in our society. Recently the term “food insecurity” is being used to indicate a much larger concern. This is described as the lack of access to a sufficient quantity of nutritious food.
Your question is indeed timely in the fact March is National Nutrition Month with this year’s theme “Eat Well to Promote Your Health.” The message focuses on the importance of eating properly to prevent chronic disease, help to recover faster from illness, remain active and independent. Unfortunately for many older adults there are numerous personal roadblocks which may prevent them from following this advice. They may not have reliable transportation to get out to purchase groceries. Their limited financial resources force them to buy food that may not always be healthy. They could live in an area without stores nearby, or have disabilities that deter them from leaving their home or cooking.
There are resources in the Merrimack Valley to help supplement an individual’s food needs. Many of the senior centers have congregate meals programs during the week. Some communities have food pantries. Elder Services’ Brown Bag Program in conjunction with the Greater Boston Food Bank provides food once a month. The Meals on Wheels Program delivers meals to the homes of people who meet eligibility guidelines and SNAP (previously the Food Stamps Program) helps with purchasing groceries. While one resource alone may not solve a person’s need a combination of benefits could make a real difference in their food intake. I would encourage you to call the Age Information Department at Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley, Inc., to learn more about the various options.
Are you struggling caring for an older adult or having difficulty locating resources? Our staff is available for a no-cost consultation, set up at your convenience, to help guide you through your caregiving experience. For more details or to schedule an appointment, please call 800-892-0890.
Do you have a question? We encourage inquiries and comments from our readers. Please direct your correspondence to firstname.lastname@example.org or Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley, Inc., Age Information Department, 280 Merrimack Street, Suite 400, Lawrence, MA 01843. Joan Hatem-Roy is the Chief Executive Officer of Elder Services.