Ida Tondera was all smiles when she received her Meals on Wheels delivery Tuesday at her Glenville home.
The senior citizen said she enjoys the food, which is delivered to her door every weekday. “It means a lot to my daughter, too. This way, she knows I’m all set,” she said.
In another Glenville neighborhood, Meals on Wheels recipient George struggled to get to the door. He said the daily visit from a meal delivery person is welcome, since his family lives out of state and he doesn’t get out to see people very often. He doesn’t cook for himself, so the meal delivery service is a lifeline. He had high praise for the food.
“It’s delicious,” he said.
Capital Region Meals on Wheels programs deliver low-cost, nutritious meals to seniors who are homebound and can’t prepare their own food. The service also provides a daily check-in to ensure recipients are doing well.
Demand for meals is on the rise in several local counties, while others are bracing for an increase as the elderly population grows.
Montgomery County has close to 100 people on a waiting list for its Meals on Wheels program, said Dave Jordan, executive director of the Montgomery County Office for Aging.
The number of people on the waiting list has gone down recently, but demand for the service is increasing as the number of senior residents grows. The county has the third highest percentage of older adults of all counties in the state, Jordan noted.
“We have roughly 50,000 people in the county and almost 12,000 are seniors, so that puts a strain on what our funding is,” he said.
Montgomery County’s program, which is funded with federal and state grants, as well as through an allocation from the county, delivers meals to about 140 homes every weekday. “We’re a private not-for-profit. Funding has stayed the same since about 2007 and everything else has gone up,” he said.
The county has nine meal delivery routes, five of which are driven by volunteers. When volunteers aren’t available, transportation is provided, for a fee, by the company that prepares the meals.
“When we have a paid driver, $3.50 of the meal price is because of the delivery. That’s a pretty big expense,” Jordan said.
Meals are provided to seniors in the county for a suggested donation of $3 a meal.
Montgomery County’s Meals on Wheels program is always in search of volunteer drivers. To help, call 843-2300.
Schenectady County’s Meals on Wheels program has a waiting list of about 12 people. Run by Catholic Charities Senior and Caregiver Support Services, last year the program provided close to 87,000 meals to 580 seniors.
Although the waiting list is shorter than it has been at times in the past, demand for the service is slowly increasing, said Walter Fosdick, program director for Catholic Charities Senior and Caregiver Support Services.
The program, which is partially funded through the county’s senior and long-term care service, uses mainly paid drivers, to ensure continuity.
“We try very hard not to close. We know we’re providing an essential service for many folks. The staff is very dedicated and this past winter was terrible. Drivers got stuck in driveways,” explained Fosdick.
The service helps people to age in place, he pointed out.
“People think you just deliver meals and go on. Actually, probably in 80 percent of the cases, these [drivers] are the only people who see the person on a daily basis.”
If a decline in personal hygiene or a reduction in cognitive ability is noticed, people on an emergency contact list are notified and referrals to other programs are made when necessary.
Volunteers for Schenectady’s program are needed mainly to do office work and make phone calls to check in with meal recipients. To help, call 688-0051.
Demand for Meals on Wheels service is also on the rise in Fulton County, said Andrea Fettinger, director for the Fulton County Office for the Aging.
The service presently provides about 350 home-delivered meals every weekday, and currently has no waiting list.
“I think we’re all facing a situation where, in the future, if not now, we will have to structure agencies in such a way where we’re going to have to figure out how to serve more people,” Fettinger noted.
The rural county’s program is challenged by the long driving distances often required to deliver the meals. Organizers also struggle to find creative ways to reach out to people who are protective of their privacy.
“We’re facing a situation where people are fearful of individuals coming to their homes because of scams, because of a lot of things,” Fettinger said.
Volunteer drivers are always being sought. Call 736-5650 to sign up.
Schoharie County’s Meals on Wheels program is keeping up with demand, serving about 225 seniors every weekday, but Nancy Dingee, director of the Schoharie County Office for the Aging, sees change on the horizon.
“I think this will continue to grow and grow as the older individuals in the county continue to grow in numbers. We’re just on the beginning edge of what’s going to be a pretty big increase in need,” she said.
In anticipation of that increase, Dingee said the organization will work to acquire additional funding.
“We’ll be looking towards trying to put in place ways that we can receive reimbursement through some of the new managed long-term care companies and any other funding streams that would be able to assist,” she said.
The program contracts with a local company for drivers and with another entity for meal preparation. Volunteers deliver meals to some of the county’s larger villages.
Dingee said the program is not presently in need of volunteers.
About 425 seniors receive meal delivery every weekday from the Saratoga County’s Meals on Wheels program.
Demand has remained about the same over the past few years, said nutrition coordinator Billie Jo McConkey.
McConkey said senior citizens are keeping more physically fit than in the past, so the program is not seeing many requests from younger seniors.
“I feel like it’s a younger 60 than it used to be. It may take them a little bit longer to have a need for this,” she said.
The county’s 35 meal routes are driven exclusively by volunteers, so volunteers are always being sought. To sign up, call 884-4100.
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