Meals on Wheels

Home-Delivered and Congregate Meals

Both public and private programs deliver hot meals to seniors and provide them in congregate settings such as senior centers. The Elderly Nutrition Program is the largest public program financing such services. It is funded through the Administration on Aging. Services are provided through local Area Agencies on Aging or Tribal Senior Services.

Volunteers and paid staff who deliver meals to homebound seniors often spend some time with them, helping to brighten their day. They also check on the welfare of the senior. On the other hand, seniors attending hot lunches at one of the senior nutrition sites can share time with friends and neighbors. The sties also offer a variety of programs such as health clinics, information and referral, recreation programs, exercise sessions, and craft classes.

The Elderly Nutrition Program’s 3.1 million senior participants receive an estimated 40 to 50 percent of most required daily nutrients (AoA, 2004b). In 2000, some 144 million meals were delivered under this program (AARP, 2003). Elderly Nutrition Program participants have twice as many physical impairments as does the overall elderly population (AoA, 2004b).

The Elderly Nutrition Program also provides a range of related services through the aging network’s estimated 4,000 nutrition service providers. They include nutrition screening, assessment, education, and counseling. Nutrition service providers may also include special health assessments for such diseases as hypertension and diabetes. Through additional services, older participants learn to shop, plan, and prepare nutritious meals that are economical and enhance their health and well-being.

While there is no means test for participation in the Elderly Nutrition Program, services are targeted to seniors with the greatest economic or social need, with special attention given to low-income minorities and rural older people.

A good example of an Elderly Nutrition Program is Coastline Elderly Services in Wisconsin (Coastline Elderly Services, n.d.). The program provides hot noontime meals for consumers over 60 and their spouses through two different programs – The Meals on Wheels Program for homebound elders and the Lunch Program provided at 15 senior centers in the area.

The meals provide between 700 and 800 calories with no added salt. They include one-third of the daily nutrients as recommended for older adults and no more than 30 percent of the daily fat allotment. Low-sugar desserts and low-fat milk are available. Daily menus are published in local senior and community newspapers and are announced on two radio stations.

The information above is reprinted from Working with Seniors: Health, Financial and Social Issues with permission from Society of Certified Senior Advisors® . Copyright © 2009. All rights reserved.