A recent study by Defeat Malnutrition found that one in two older adults (65+) are at risk for malnutrition. Cooking for oneself becomes difficult as we age. Going to the store to have fresh ingredients to prepare meals is no longer a priority. Payment for medications, utilities, and health-related bills takes precedence over groceries. Senior nutrition programs are cost-effective programs that help reduce malnutrition and social isolation. MNRAAA partners with Lutheran Social Services and Prairie Five to provide congregate dining and home-delivered meals to older adults and their caregivers in southwest Minnesota.
Congregate dining allows individuals to gather at a community site (usually a senior center or community center) to share in a meal. At these sites, numerous activities occur. Some senior centers are fortunate enough to have staff to schedule programs. Others have active members that host card games, have book clubs, and others make scrapbooks. The common thread they share is socialization. Studies have shown that socialization is key to maintaining health, especially for older adults.
The other senior nutrition program is home-delivered meals. Providers can meet individuals in their homes, including those who may be unable to leave their homes. Reasons can range from the inability to obtain transportation, a chronic illness, anxiety, fear of falling or an acute illness. The staff and volunteer drivers deliver meals and indirectly provide wellness checks. As relationships are developed, those delivering the meals can tell if a recipient is falling ill or has had recent health concerns. We regularly hear that a driver discovered a recipient had fallen, and the driver was able to call for assistance. If not for that driver, we tremble to think how long that individual may have laid before aid was rendered. Finally, the driver provides socialization with the recipient, which is important for healthy aging. Home-delivered meals are sometimes the only interaction older adults may experience that day or week.
MNRAAA is working to raise awareness around the Senior Nutrition Program, destigmatize the program, and work with our partners to innovate these important programs for older adults and their caregivers. Do not forget about older adults. People of all ages need adequate meals and healthy foods.
If you know someone who may benefit from these services, contact the Senior LinkAge Line at 800-333-2433. You can also find congregate dining locations or home-delivered meals programs online at https://mnhelp.info/.