Here’s a Senior Meals Program Veterans May Not Know About
By Don Irelan, GCVF Volunteer and Son of a WWII Navy Veteran
The U.S. population includes more than 18 million veterans with almost half over the age of 65 and more than 90% are male. Seniors often are homebound and live alone. This roughly translates to about 2.5 million veterans who are living alone, most of them male.
In general, veterans are aware of the benefits administered by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs relating to medical, financial, housing and other needs. What senior veterans may not be aware of, is that there are local nonprofit resources available to help seniors. One helpful resource may be a local Meals On Wheels program.
Seniors are often unable to fix nutritionally balanced meals for themselves. They may not drive and cannot shop for food and supplies. Their mobility may be impaired, limiting their ability to cook and clean their kitchen, and senior veterans may have lost a spouse who did most of the cooking. It is especially important for seniors to eat well.
Seniors may eat less food, but they need food that is nutritionally dense to avoid weight gain and stay healthy, and seniors need more protein. Senior Concerns’ Meals On Wheels Program is an excellent community solution to all of the above.
The meal choices offered in the Conejo Valley, where I am a volunteer driver, contain protein, healthy carbs, vegetables, fruit, dessert bites, milk, water and juice to ensure that seniors have access to the nutrition they need to stay healthy as they age.
Another benefit to any Meals on Wheels program is the opportunity to form personal connections between volunteer drivers and their senior clients. Both drivers and senior clients look forward to their weekly visits, and as a result, drivers are often the first person to become aware of rapid changes in the welfare or the demeanor of their clients.
Drivers can confidentially inform Meals On Wheels program staff, who then alert family members and caregivers if necessary. In this way, observant drivers play a major role in the continued well-being of senior clients.
I would like to share a true Meals On Wheels story regarding the late patriarch of our family. Our veteran dad served in the U.S. Navy during World War II and returned home to enjoy a long life and six decades of marriage to our mom before her death. Based on our most recent headcount, he ended up with 70-plus loving offspring, including spouses, covering three family generations.
Our veteran dad was very capable of caring for himself and those he loved, and he could take apart, fix and reassemble complicated manual typewriters, adding machines and vending machines. However, our dad could not cook, and knowing his limitations, he signed up to receive Meals On Wheels a few days a week.
Due to our dad’s positive experience with Meals On Wheels, two of my sisters signed up to deliver meals to seniors in their hometowns, and they say that their delivery days are, “the best days of our week.”
After hearing this, I contacted Senior Concerns which has been delivering meals since 1975 to area seniors, including 11 known senior veterans, four of whom I have come to know during deliveries. From my acquaintance with these seniors, I have seen for myself how valuable the meals and the social interaction are to their continued well-being.
I have come to know one remarkable Newbury Park veteran during my deliveries whose story is interesting. This senior veteran and I have shared life experiences, family stories, tips for growing fruit trees, interests in area events, local news and many other shared interests.
I learned that he had served for three years in the U.S. Air Force during the 1950s. He retired after multiple careers several years ago, and his late wife had volunteered as a Meals On Wheels driver for a 10-year period in Los Angeles County. It has been an enriching experience connecting to this senior veteran, and I agree with my volunteer driver sisters that driving days are “best days.”
Senior Concerns’ Meals On Wheels program offers excellent meal deliveries with variable scheduling options and the ability to accommodate many senior’s dietary needs due to being a private nonprofit program, funded entirely by donors, when other programs may use government funding.
Meals On Wheels also offers very satisfying and purposeful volunteer positions. I highly encourage anyone interested in serving seniors and/or donating much needed funds to contact their local Meals On Wheels agency.
Any senior veteran, family member or caretaker who desires additional information are encouraged to call local Meals On Wheels providers.
Don Irelan retired in 2017 after 37 years with the city of Santa Barbara. In 2016, he volunteered at special events hosted by Gold Coast Veterans Foundation, and two years later became a regular volunteer. In 2018, Irelan joined Senior Concerns of Conejo Valley as a volunteer Meals On Wheels driver.
Source: VC Star article from October 4, 2020