My philanthropy in regards to children has been well-documented here on my blog, I want to also express the importance of charities that helps another vulnerable population: the elderly. Like children, many elderly citizens depend on assistance for the tasks in life that many of us take for granted. Meals on Wheels is one wonderful organization that assists seniors by delivering meals to the doorsteps of those too old or weak to travel.
The issue that inspired the creation of Meals on Wheels is a well-documented one that is only getting more severe as the population ages. Advances in medicine have expanded the average lifespan to 79.9, and though this alone is a great feat for humankind, it also means more years of the struggles associated with old age. As families are increasingly mobile, moving to different areas of the country or world, there an increasing amount of seniors left behind.
As it is, over 10,000 men and women of the Baby Boomers generation are reaching retirement age each year. Seniors are the fastest growing population group in the United States, and will double in number to a quarter of the US population by 2050.
Of today’s 65-year-olds, many can expect to live until 90. But that doesn’t mean they will keep their agility and ability to complete household tasks for that long. We need to help the seniors of today and tomorrow the way they helped us; we need to respect the elderly and keep them from isolation and hunger.
Meals on Wheels is one solution to this problem that is not only generous and compassionate, but effective and affordable. When seniors are unable to travel, many are moved into nursing homes or hospitals prematurely. According to their website, it costs less to provide a senior Meals on Wheels for an entire year than it costs to pay for one day in a hospital or six days in a nursing home. This way, seniors can keep enjoying the comforts of their home without having to stress about grocery shopping and meal preparation on top of it.
It all started in Philadelphia in 1954, when a small group of citizens made the first deliveries to struggling seniors. Since then, Meals on Wheels has come to serve over 2.4 million seniors in almost every community across the country. As such, it is one of the largest and effective social movements in America.
The scope of Meals on Wheels is greater than just dropping off food at doorsteps. Seniors face three major issues in this country today: isolation, loss of independence, and hungry. When providing nutritious meals, Meals on Wheels accomplishes much more than that: volunteers offer a friendly visit and safety check in to provide companionship and security. Nine out of ten seniors feel safer in their home thanks to such services, and 83 percent say these check-ins help their overall health, making hospital visits much less likely.
Lastly, though seniors benefit the most from this program, the benefits expand outward. Families that don’t live near their older relatives rest easy knowing they are getting the personal care they need, entire communities are strengthened through volunteer efforts, and the economy thrives as billions of expenses are saved from Medicare and Medicaid.
Most of us, someday, will be seniors ourselves. I know I want my last years on earth to be as comfortable and supportive as possible, all while retaining as much agency as I can. I want this for my children, and their children, and everyone’s children as well. Supporting worthy causes like Meals on Wheels truly makes respect for our elders more than just an abstract feeling, but a tangible action that changes lives for the better.