by Maureen Habel, (past GAF President, former Meals on Wheels of Long Beach volunteer)
Lucy broke her hip several months ago and can no longer walk to the bus stop or drive to the grocery store. Unfortunately, she has had to give up some cherished social activities. Dan was widowed last year. He is lonely, beginning to have mobility problems and struggles to cobble together a few meals that he describes as “pretty awful.” Gus and Dottie, both in their late 80s, can no longer shop for and prepare the nutritious food they need to stay healthy. All live on a limited income and have considered Meals on Wheels as beyond their frugal budgets.
But this March, the stars began to align. The Golden Age Foundation’s (GAF.) contribution to Meals on Wheels of Long Beach (MOWLB). will help make nutritious home-delivered meals a reality for people like Lucy, Dan, Gus and Dottie. The GAF Board of Directors recently allocated $10,000 to MOWLB to provide meal sponsorships for qualified low-income Leisure World residents.
How Big a Problem?
Food insecurity and social isolation is a huge problem for many seniors. The United States Department of Agriculture describes food insecurity as “limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods.” Poor nutrition in older adults can lead to a number of serious health conditions, including a weak immune system, which increases infection risk, delayed wound healing, muscle weakness and decreased bone mass, leading to falls and fractures, and an increased risk of hospitalization and death.
It’s estimated that healthcare costs associated with malnutrition in seniors is $51 billion each year.
MOWLB can serve a senior for an entire year for the same cost as one hospital day or 10 days in a nursing home. According to Meals on Wheels America (MOWA) data, 59 percent of home-delivered meal recipients are 75 or older, 69 percent are women, 59 percent live alone, and 46 percent rate their health as fair or poor. Surveys done by the organization indicate that nine of 10 recipients report that MOWA services makes them feel more secure and improves their health status.
The Golden Age Foundation Responds
The GAF was organized in 1973 by the Golden Rain Foundation (GRF) Board of Directors. These community leaders became aware that there were many unmet needs, particularly among residents with lower income levels. They saw the establishment of a non-profit foundation, separate from the governance function provided by GRF, as an important strategy.
For over 46 years, the GAF, using contributions from individual shareholders and groups, has provided many programs and services to improve the quality of life for all Leisure World residents. GAF’s original Articles of Incorporation provides important guidance for the distribution of donated funds.
Specifically, these founding documents direct GAF to “receive contributions and dispense funds to aid and support those persons in need of charitable assistance, primarily the aged,” in part by forming alliances with other non-profit organizations with similar missions. Although the legal language sounds a bit outdated, GAF’s goal of improving quality of life for those residing in Leisure World, especially for those who may need a bit of help, remains the same.
How It Works
MOWLB was founded in 1971 to support the independence and well being of homebound seniors, veterans and the disabled. This program is designed specifically to meet the nutritional and social needs of seniors. MOWLB is a 501c.(3) nonprofit organization and is supported by philanthropic foundations and the generosity of corporate and individual donors.
Starting in 2013, MOWLB began offering meals in Leisure World. According to Bill Cruikshank, executive director of MOWLB, between 95 and 100 Leisure World residents are currently enrolled in the program.
The program offers affordable lunches and dinners, using creative menus planned and reviewed by a registered dietician. All meals are prepared daily using only the freshest ingredients. Menus are published each week in the LW Weekly.
Flexibility is the key to meeting individual needs. Many clients subscribe to a five-day a week plan, receiving a hot lunch and a lighter cold evening meal; others use the services three days a week, and some request additional weekend service. Some residents need MOWLB service while they are recuperating from an illness or injury, while others may choose to become long-term clients.
Meals are delivered by a team of two volunteers between 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. The current cost is $8.25 per day. Enrollment criteria include being homebound and being a Leisure World resident. Those who need financial sponsorship, now generously provided by GAF, are screened for eligibility by MOWLB professionals.
To sign up for the program and/or to find out if you are eligible for GAF financial sponsorship, visit the MOWLB Leisure World website (www.lwsb.site.mowlb.org. or call the office at 433-0232.
It’s More Than a Meal
Having social contact to combat isolation and loneliness is another way of meeting human needs. MOWLB volunteers often become close friends with their “clients,” as they deliver food—and a bit more—a friendly face and a chance for a visit.
Knowing that a volunteer will be stopping by nearly every day is a great relief to homebound seniors and their families and friends. MOWLB statistics show that for the 59 percent of clients who live alone, the visitor delivering the meal is the only person they will see that day. If a MOWLB client needs a boost or has a pet, volunteers can also deliver freshly cut flowers and pet food donated by local merchants. Once individuals begin MOWLB service, a member from the MOWLB Care Team can stop by to identify additional needs and resources that can keep clients achieve a safe, healthy, and happy life.
How You Can Help
First, think about becoming a MOWLB volunteer and taking advantage of the opportunity to directly help neighbors. The intent of the GAF contribution is to encourage more residents to enroll in MOWLB, especially those who may need financial sponsorship.
Volunteers select at least one day a week, committing to an approximate two-hour time frame between 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. It’s a meaningful gig for couples or friends. It’s also a great chance for a single volunteer to be paired up with a like-minded stranger, who won’t be a stranger for long as they work together in service.
To become a MOWLB volunteer, go to www.mowlb.org, complete an on-line application and be sure to provide your Leisure World mailing address. You can also call 433-0232 and ask to speak with Caron Adler.
Second, tell friends and neighbors about the opportunity for individuals with fixed limited incomes to enroll in MOWLB with the help of a GAF sponsorship. Help by letting people know that the assistance is to support healthy eating and continued independence.
Third, consider donating to GAF. Contributions are the major source of income for the organization, and funds are continuously needed to support GAF’s many programs that benefit many people in Leisure World. Donations can be placed in the gray mounted wall box adjacent to the Hospitality Center in Clubhouse 6.