Letter: Meals on Wheels benefits elderly, saves govt. money
The Elder Nutrition Program, more commonly known as Meals on Wheels, has been in the news a lot lately. Locally, this program is administered by Elder Services of Berkshire County and encompasses two components, home delivered meals and community dining sites. We thought it might be helpful to share some information about the program and its impact on participants.
The Elder Nutrition Program is chronically under-funded at the federal and state level(s) and depends on support from local entities such as Greylock Federal Credit Union, funds of the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, Northern Berkshire United Way, Williamstown Community Chest, Guardian Insurance, Adams Community Bank, Pittsfield Co-Op Bank, Berkshire Bank, TD Bank, MountainOne, Pittsfield Rotary Club, Fallon Health, local governments, charitable individuals and even program participants (through a voluntary donation) to meet program needs each year. It helps seniors remain at home and out of hospitals and nursing homes, saving countless Medicare and Medicaid dollars each year. Consider, a senior can receive Meals on Wheels for an entire year for approximately the same cost as one day in the hospital.
Each year, Elder Services of Berkshire County surveys our nutrition program participants. This information is shared with the Massachusetts Executive Office of Elder Affairs and utilized to make program improvements and advocate for the program and its participants. This year's survey data has just been compiled (500+ responses) and offers the following information for FY2016:
* More than 213,600 meals were served to approximately 3,100 seniors aged 60 and older.
* Seventy-nine percent of these meals were home delivered and 21 percent were served at community dining
* Approximately 75 percent of home delivered consumers receive five or more meals per week.
* Seventy percent of respondents indicated that the meal was their main meal of the day.
* Ninety-six percent of participants would recommend the program to a friend.
* Eighty-seven percent of home delivered and 86 percent of community dining participants report that the meals help them to continue to live independently at home.
The Elder Nutrition Program, both Meals on Wheels and community dining sites, represent a critical collaborative community effort to assist seniors in living the fullest most independent life possible. Nearly 200 volunteers help deliver meals alongside paid drivers. Local Councils on Aging host 15 community dining sites that provide not just nutrition, but sustenance and socialization for attendees that might otherwise be isolated at home.
The Elder Nutrition Program is simple. Healthy nutritious food helps people live healthier, longer and fuller lives more independently at home. Socialization (at community dining sites) and wellness checks (by home delivered meal drivers) provide support and security for seniors and their families.
Elder Services of Berkshire County is proud to be part of this meaningful and impactful program that supports our seniors, their loved ones, families and caregivers in creating their fullest and highest quality life possible.
Dawn M. Dellea,
The writer is president, Board of Directors, Elder Services of Berkshire County.
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