Food delivery services such as Meals on Wheels may help seniors remain at home rather than moving to a nursing facility—but it’s an option that might not be right for everyone.
It’s not surprising that many seniors would prefer the comforts of home to the stresses of moving to a care facility. In fact, an AARP study reports that nearly three-quarters of adults would like to stay in their current residence for as long as possible. But aging presents a set of challenges that may make it difficult for older adults to care for themselves.
There’s hope, though, for those seniors who want to remain independent. New research from Brown University suggests that home-delivered meal services like Meals on Wheels may help keep seniors with minimal care needs out of nursing homes. Nevertheless, it’s important for caregivers to consider each person’s individual needs to determine whether staying at home is the right choice.
Meal Delivery Services and Senior Nutrition
1 in 7 seniors is threatened by hunger, reports the National Foundation to End Senior Hunger. Just as troubling is the fact that there are an estimated 3.7 million malnourished seniors in the United States, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. But there’s encouraging data, too—in a U.S. Administration on Aging survey, 85 percent reported that Meals on Wheels helps them eat healthier.
Meal delivery services provide meals not only for seniors with mobility issues living at home, but also, in many cases, they bring meals to community locations like senior centers, enabling proper senior nutrition for hundreds of thousands of people who might not be able to nourish themselves properly on their own.
The Benefits of Meal Delivery to Senior Independence
Not only is meal delivery a boon to senior nutrition, it is also associated with lower nursing care enrollment for those seniors with minimal nursing care needs. According to the Brown University study, higher state spending on home-delivered meals is directly associated with a reduction in the number of low-care nursing home residents.
“States that have invested in their community-based service networks, particularly home-delivered meals, have proportionally fewer of these people than do those states that have not,” reported gerontology researchers Kali Thomas and Vincent Mor in the study’s press release. Those seniors may have the option of more independent living, including remaining at home.
Balancing Independence with Seniors’ Social Needs
Even though meal delivery provides more flexibility for seniors who want to remain in their homes or with family, older adults also need social activity for overall wellness. Meal deliveries may exacerbate loneliness in seniors who are already living in isolation, while assisted living or other senior communities offer a range of social benefits. Ultimately, a healthy balance is important—caregivers need to evaluate each individual’s situation in order to determine whether the best option is home care, meal delivery, assisted living, or some other form of care.
Have you or someone you love participated in the Meals on Wheels program? We want to hear about your home care experiences—please share your stories in the comments!