Loneliness an Epidemic among Elderly
The United Kingdom appointed a Minister for Loneliness last month in response to a report that nine million British people feel lonely and socially isolated. The appointment sparked considerable conversation in the media about our own “epidemic of loneliness” here in the United States, one the AARP has reported to affect more than 55 percent of older adults with poor health.
According to Colleen Harvot, Director of In-Home Care at Valley VNA, loneliness can lead to serious health problems for seniors like cognitive decline, depression, stroke, heart disease, or decreased immunity to germs like influenza or the common cold. “As people age, they tend to lose people who are close to them when they move or pass away, or they don’t drive anymore and can’t get out to visit. They don’t just feel blue or bored for a little while. It affects a person’s complete emotional and physical health.”
Meals on Wheels serves more than 2.4 million seniors across America, many of whom struggle with social isolation and loneliness. The Valley VNA Meals on Wheels program to deliver hot, nutritious, and diet-specific meals to elderly and homebound people is a collaboration between Valley VNA, for administrative support; ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah, for food preparation in their dietary department; and the Neenah-Menasha Emergency Society, whose members and other community volunteers make noon-hour deliveries, Monday through Friday.
To The Neenah-Menasha program recently received a $10,000 grant from the ThedaCare Neenah Foundation to help offset increased costs for it patrons, and it currently has capacity to take on more clients. “I am proud to say we have capacity when other areas around the country have waiting lists for meal deliveries. We are eager to fill our schedule because we know how important it is to look forward to a regular visit and meal,” Harvot said.
Because the meals are made at ThedaCare, they can be customized to meet special dietary needs, such as low salt, low carb, or food allergies. “It’s a big advantage for many of our clients who have health concerns,” said Harvot.
Any elderly person in the city of Neenah or Menasha is eligible for Valley VNA Meals on Wheels; they need not be homebound. Some clients get meals Monday through Friday; others, twice a week. Each meal delivery includes two packs. The hot pack includes meat, a vegetable, and a starch. The cold pack includes a roll with butter, a dessert, and fruit. Meals are billed to the client once a month at $5.25 per meal. Clients generally pay by check.
The program has the capacity to deliver 60 meals per day, and there are current openings for both new clients and new delivery volunteers. To arrange for meal deliveries, or to volunteer, contact Bobbie Rhoades, Valley VNA Meals-on-Wheels Coordinator, at 920.727.5555, ext. 2213 or firstname.lastname@example.org.