Home meal delivery services and community centers are just a few ways older people can find a hot meal and maybe make some friends along the way.
You probably won’t find too many dietitians recommending nine tater tots as part of a balanced, nutritious breakfast for older adults, but that’s exactly what one woman was eating every morning before connecting with Venice Area Mobile Meals, said board member Mary Ann Dillahunty.
Unhealthy eating habits are all too common among people who are aging at home. A 2014 study published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine estimated that the cost of disease-associated malnutrition in older adults is more than $50 billion per year, while an earlier study suggested that one out of every two older adults are at risk of becoming malnourished at some point in their lives.
In other words, if you are older, what and how you eat is a big deal. In fact, many older adult health experts say that figuring out where your meals are coming from is one of the first things you should consider when contemplating aging in place.
“A lot of people stop eating properly when they get older, whether that’s because they don’t have access to food or have lost their appetite,” said Dillahunty. “But I think as people get older, that’s when they really need to make sure that they are eating what they need to stay healthy for their age.”
For those choosing to stay home as they age, there are many different food options. Home meal delivery services and community centers are just a couple of ways to find hot meals if you are unable to cook. But which option is best for you? This can be a daunting question.
If you are unable to easily leave the house and go shopping, a home meal delivery service such as Venice Area Mobile Meals or your local Meals on Wheels equivalent might be best. Venice’s organization has 16 different delivery routes and brings meals to 200 client homes six days a week for $4.50 per meal for those who can afford it, while clients who meet certain poverty guidelines may qualify for free meals. The organization, which is entirely volunteer-based, doesn’t just drop the food off at your doorstep, either: They bring it right inside.
“We make sure our clients get what they need, both nutritionally and otherwise. Sometimes they just need a friend. I’ve helped turn thermostats up, I’ve gone and got the mail for a client who was in a walker. It’s not just about physical health, because mental health is tied to that too,” said Dillahunty.
Places like the Friendship Centers also offer nutritious delivered meals for homebound older adults. But if you can still get around safely, their hot lunch program may be for you. Friendship Dining happens at 1888 Brother Greenen Way Monday through Friday from 11:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and offers healthy meals for a suggested donation of $3 to cover costs. Through partnerships with other facilities throughout Southwest Florida, there are more than 19 Friendship Dining locations, each with different hours of operation, which you can find on their website.
“The hot lunch program that we have is about more than just the food,” said Crystal Rothaar, spokesperson for the Friendship Centers. “A lot of people won’t even eat when they’re alone, or they might eat something that’s not nutritious by stopping at the gas station or eating at McDonald’s every day. This option gives them something nutritious to eat, but it also gives them companionship and the opportunity to be out in the world and make friends with people while sharing a warm meal.”
Find more Aging in Place stories online at heraldtribune.com/aging-in-place. If there are aspects of aging in place you would like the Herald-Tribune to explore, send ideas to email@example.com.
This story comes from Aspirations Journalism, an initiative of The Patterson Foundation and Sarasota Herald-Tribune to inform, inspire, and engage the community to take action on issues related to Age-Friendly Sarasota, Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, National Council on Aging and the Suncoast Nursing Action Coalition.