Warm Meals and Friendly Smiles: Meals on Wheels

  • Your eighty-year-old grandmother is fiercely independent. She insists she can live alone, yet you worry that she doesn’t eat. Your 73-year-old aunt is often lonely. You visit and help her out, but you wish she would eat better.  Your 79-year-old neighbor is a jolly widower who’s fairly healthy, but doesn’t know a soup pan from a mixing bowl.


    You worry. You feel guilty. But you can’t quit your job. And they aren’t ready to move to assisted living. Now what? Meals on Wheels is a good place to start. Most Meals on Wheels programs depend entirely on volunteers to bring warm meals to just these people.  Volunteers, many of whom are healthy retired people, bring not only warm meals, but friendship and comfort to often lonely elders.

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    I know a man named Claude who has spent over ten years delivering meals twice a week and he’s still at it. As Claude puts it “I have lost at least eight people, but that’s life.” That says a lot about the love and dedication that is delivered along with the meal. These were his people.

    Delivering these meals isn’t for the faint of heart.


    My eighty-one-year-old neighbor Joe’s attitude was, “They sure as hell can’t cook as good as me.” This, after I’d thrown out a garbage pail of green goo from his refrigerator and strongly suggested he try the service.


    Other elders complain about the timing, or the interruption in their day. Underneath, however, they are very happy for the service. They just need someone to grumble to and this volunteer is the one person who won’t turn away from them.


    Meals on Wheels programs have been alive, in many communities, for decades. My mother, in her younger years, delivered meals for several years. In fact, one of our family stories came from her experiences with the service.


    Mom, then in her late forties, was trotting up the steep steps of a downtown apartment building, meal in hand, when a fellow, lounging on the steps and cradling a brown paper bag, looked her up and down and said, “How much, lady?”


    My rather naive mother looked at him and chirped, “$2.50!” Only after she was driving home did she realize that he didn’t mean the meal. The price of the meals varies according to a person’s ability to pay, but apparently that wasn’t the issue here!


    I’m betting that most of you know someone who could benefit from the service. And I’m betting most of you also know someone, perhaps a new retiree, with too much time and an unaccustomed feeling of uselessness, who would benefit from volunteering. Give it some thought. Think of your grandma, your aunt, your neighbor. And think of someone with the time and heart to give. Carry the message that there is a great need for warm meals and a friendly smile.

    To learn more about Carol, please go to
    www.mindingourelders.com or www.mindingoureldersblogs.com.

Published On: April 23, 2007