Giving Compass’ Take:
• Studies show that Meals and Wheels addresses the social isolation problem within the elderly population and has positive effects on their wellbeing.
• How can Meals on Wheels incorporate more feedback from their consumers in order to enhance and continuously evaluate their own programs?
• Read about another study in which researchers found that Meals on Wheels reduces health care costs for the elderly.
Meals on Wheels serves more than 2.4 million seniors across America, many of whom struggle with social isolation and loneliness. The administration’s proposed 2018 budget cuts $3 million from the Older Americans Act Nutrition Programs and eliminates funding for the Community Development Block Grant program. These two programs are the primary federal funding streams that support Meals on Wheels.
As we close out Older Americans Month, we reflect on how Meals on Wheels—and programs like it—can offer critical support for its clients’ physical and mental health.
Although social isolation and loneliness weigh heavily on older adults, connections to friends, family, and institutions rarely get a nod in discussions over the causes and costs of poor health outcomes among older adults. Studies have linked either loneliness or social isolation to an increased risk of diabetes, undernutrition, hypertension, arthritis, emphysema, depression, cognitive decline, and increased mortality.
Meals on Wheels has been shown to improve physical health outcomes by improving food security and reducing the risk of falls and hospitalization among recipients. Scholars have recently examined whether social services like Meals on Wheels can address social isolation.
A 2015 study concluded that two-fifths of Meals on Wheels recipients said they would have little daily contact with people if not for those who delivered their meals. Additionally, ninety-two percent of Meals on Wheels recipients noted that the service allows them to remain living at home without the social and institutional connections provided by regular meal deliveries.
Without regular contact with a Meals on Wheels delivery member, this population would be at severe risk for social isolation and loneliness.
Read the full article about Meals on Wheels by Micaela Lipman and Elaine Waxman at the Urban Institute.
Since you are interested in North America, have you read these selections from Giving Compass related to impact giving and North America?
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