Elderly Remaining Warm

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With the temperature remaining cold this week, staying warm becomes a priority.

The Meals On Wheels Program of the Tri-County Office On Aging delivers more than 400 meals a day to the elderly. But another focus of the program is to make sure the elderly are staying warm and furnaces are working properly.

Officials say the program gives them a sense of security. The elderly know they don't have to worry about going outside for groceries. So far this year, there have been no problems with cold homes.

In the past, officials have noticed problems with cold homes and broken furnaces. If this occurs, they report problems to family members or the American Red Cross.

The program offers the same type of assistance in the summer, making sure there is air conditioning in the homes and the elderly are staying cool.

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Meals on Wheels

  • Today's Elderly Nutrition Programs in the United States trace their roots back to Great Britain during World War II (1939).

  • When German planes bombarded English soil, many people in Britain lost their homes and , subsequently, their ability to cook meals for themselves.

  • The Women's Volunteer Service for Civil Defense responded to this emergency by preparing and delivering meals to their disadvantaged neighbors. These women also brought refreshments in canteens to servicemen during World War II. The canteens came to be known as "Meals on Wheels."

  • Following the war, the United States embarked on its own experimental meal program.

  • What began as a single small program serving seven seniors has grown into hundreds of local home-delivered and congregate meal programs that serve millions of elderly, disabled, or at-risk persons across the country.

  • The first American home-delivered meal program began in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in Jan., 1954.

  • At the request of the Philadelphia Health & Welfare Council, and funded by a grant from the Henrietta Tower Wurtz Foundation, Margaret Toy, a social worker in Philadelphia's Lighthouse Community Center, pioneered a program to provide nourishment that met the dietary needs of homebound seniors and other "shut-ins" in the area who otherwise would have to go hungry.

  • The daily delivery consisted of one nutritionally balanced hot meal to eat at lunchtime and a dinner, consisting of a cold sandwich and milk along with varying side dishes.

  • In an effort both to cover costs and to maintain the elders' sense of dignity, the program charged a fee ranging from 40 to 80 cents per day based on the individual's ability to pay.

  • The delivery was so efficient that seniors often would jokingly complain to volunteers if the meal arrived only a few minutes off schedule. Had there been no Lighthouse program, many of the seniors would have had to remain in the hospital simply to ensure they received the nutrition needed to regain their strength.

  • Columbus, Ohio, was the second city in the U.S. to establish a community based meals program.

  • The city of Rochester, New York, began its home-delivered meal program in 1958. It was originally a pilot project initiated by the New York Department of Health and administered by the Visiting Nurse Service. The Visiting Nurse Service charged participants fees ranging from 50 cents to $1.85 per meal for dues and the Bureau of Chronic Diseases and Geriatrics of the New York Department of Health paid for the remaining costs. Eventually, cities nationwide followed with similar programs.

Source: www.projectmeal.org (Meals on Wheels Web site) contributed to this report.