Category Archives: Senior Hunger

“Focus On Aging Adults”

On November 20, 2013 a comprehensive one-hour program called Focus On Aging Adults aired on PCN – Pennsylvania Cable Network. Interviewed were JoAnn Nenow, President of the Meals On Wheels Association Of Pennsylvania, Bill Walsh, PA State AARP Director and Karen Long, PA State Director of Feeding America.

Focus on Aging Adults takes a look at the problems some Pennsylvania seniors have in affording or getting enough food to maintain their health. Find out how to recognize if an aging family member or neighbor may be suffering from problems related to Senior Hunger.

The link to watch this program is


Shock Of Gray


I first heard Ted C. Fishman talk at the MOWAA conference in 2011 where I bought his book, Shock of Gray.

NY Times reviewer Alexandra Harney notes, “…aging accelerates globalization. As science allows us to live longer and we choose to have fewer children, we will increasingly rely on the more affordable labor of foreigners.”

And…”aging populations and globalization make it easier for companies to engage in ‘age arbitrage,’ trading in their old employees for a younger, cheaper work force elsewhere.”

Filled with witticisms, data, and anecdotes (like the first reported parent and child occupying the same nursing home at the same time in Sarasota, FL) it’s a thought provoking and noteworthy read about the world’s aging population.

Read the New York Times review
View Ted C. Fishman’s video titled. “How Old Is The World’s Population”
Read a review of another book by the author: “China, Inc. How the Rise of the Next Superpower Challenges America and the World.”

Brown University Study Shows Reduction In Low-Care Nursing Home Residences Due To MOW

brown-logoCopied below is the full text of a recent press release from Brown University. It references their study which you can download here.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — The more states spend on home-delivered meals under the Older Americans Act, the more likely they are to help people who don’t need nursing home care to stay in their homes, according to a newly published Brown University statistical analysis of a decade of spending and nursing home resident data.

“Despite efforts to rebalance long-term care, there are still many nursing home residents who have the functional capacity to live in a less restrictive environment,” wrote gerontology researchers Kali Thomas and Vincent Mor in the journal Health Services Research. “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.”

Nationwide in 2009, 12.6 percent of nursing home residents were considered “low-care,” meaning they did not need much of the suite of services that a nursing home provides. That proportion had declined from 17.9 percent in 2000 because of a variety of efforts, including OAA programs as well as Medicaid-sponsored home- and community-based services (HCBS).

Answering their own doorbell
Lead author Kali Thomas, a Meals-on-Wheels volunteer, knows that delivering meals addresses solvable problems — arthritis that makes cooking difficult, limited options for transportation without a car — and supports seniors in their own living quarters.But the percentages every year vary widely between the states. A major reason for that state-to-state variation turns out to be the difference that home-delivered meals can make. The researchers wrote that their analysis boils down to this ratio: For every $25 per year per older adult above the national average that states spend on home-delivered meals, they could reduce their percentage of low-care nursing home residents compared to the national average by 1 percentage point.

Thomas and Mor’s calculations didn’t merely associate each state’s meals spending with its percentage of low-care residents in nursing homes. They also statistically controlled for the overall decline over time and a wide variety of factors that might also have affected the rates. Those factors included state spending on Medicaid HCBS, as well as a variety of long-term care market pressures, such as excess capacity or nursing home reimbursement rates, that could create incentives for nursing homes in different states to pursue or forgo relatively profitable low-care residents.

The data included state spending on OAA programs and performance information from each state between 2000 and 2009 as well as variety of public health and nursing home data sources compiled by Brown University’s Shaping Long-Term Care in America Project. In all, 16,030 nursing homes were included in the research.

After all the analysis, home-based meals, which served more than 868,000 people in fiscal 2010, emerged as the only statistically significant factor among OAA programs that affected state-to-state differences in low-care nursing home population. Home-delivered meals account for the bulk of OAA spending.

Other factors keeping low-care residents out of nursing homes in some states included a high proportion of residents receiving skilled nursing care, which provides nursing homes with higher revenues. Factors that drove more low-care residents of some states into homes included high nursing home capacity and a high percentage of residents with not-so-lucrative Medicaid funding.

Meals mean a lot

Lead author Thomas said that as a Rhode Island Meals on Wheels volunteer and the granddaughter of a Meals on Wheels beneficiary, she was not surprised to see that the program has such a significant impact.

Food delivery as a point of contact
Regular deliveries of food also provide a chance to check in and chat with seniors.Until her grandmother died in October, she was able to live at home despite suffering from macular degeneration that made it impossible for her to cook.

“My 98-year-old granny was able to remain at home, independent in her house until she died, and we have always, even before I did this research, attributed that to Meals on Wheels,” Thomas said. “She lived four hours away from any family and refused to leave her house. We had comfort in knowing that every day someone was in her house to see how things are.”

Drivers, after all, not only bring food every day but also observe the condition of their clients. If the elderly beneficiary doesn’t answer a delivery, drivers report that. The volunteers therefore provide food and a “safety check” for many older adults.

For retired journalist and state worker Bill McNamara, 90, of Warwick, R.I., Meals on Wheels helps because he and his wife Catherine, also 90, have developed arthritis in recent years that makes food preparation too difficult. Since 2009 they have lived in an in-law unit of their son’s house, but because his son and daughter-in-law both work, McNamara said, asking them to prepare all their meals would be a significant burden.

Instead, Meals on Wheels of Rhode Island provides that service, McNamara said. The food is great and the drivers work hard to ensure consistent and timely delivery, he said. They even faithfully worked around the recent obstacle of the road being closed for a time.

“We feel it’s even better than we would have anticipated,” McNamara said. “We look forward to hearing the bell ring.”

For many seniors, especially those who don’t live with such a supportive family like the McNamaras, research shows that meal delivery is what allows them to remain where the ring of the doorbell is for their own door.

The National Institute on Aging (grant PO1AG027296) and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (grant 5T32HS000011) supported the research.

The Meals On Wheels Research Foundation

The Meals On Wheels Research Foundation (MOWRF) is the only research entity of its kind focused exclusively on the areas of senior hunger and senior nutrition in the United States. MOWRF seeks to support the Meals On Wheels Association of America’s (MOWAA) vision of ending senior hunger by 2020 through the sponsorship and promotion of research that increases understanding and awareness of the issue. Ending senior hunger is within our reach.

Research Initiatives

Senior Hunger in America: An Annual Report

This annual report series is the gold standard against which we will measure, examine and evaluate the trends related to senior hunger from year to year. The yearly updates will equip local Meals On Wheels programs with the information they need to serve their communities better in the near term. The Senior Hunger in America series will bring national attention and awareness to the progress we are making, as a nation, to end senior hunger.

The 2010 Annual Report, prepared for MOWRF by Dr. James P. Ziliak of the University of Kentucky and Dr. Craig Gundersen of the University of Illinois, is now available HERE.

You will find that currently 14.85% of seniors, or more than 1 in 7, face the threat of hunger. From 2001 to 2010, the number of seniors experiencing the threat of hunger has increased by 78%.

Our Pennsylvania state level of threat is 14.8%, about the average overall, and ranks 20th in the country. Ohio’s level is 15.78% and New York is at 13.79%.

Senior Hunger Myth #2

According to Enid Borden, Executive Director of Meals On Wheels Association of America (MOWAA), in her Huffington Post article in July 2011, there are four enduring myths about senior hunger in America.

In a four part series I will discuss each myth separately. Subscribe to our blog (the Sign Me Up button is in the right hand column) to be notified of future posts.


Myth #2 – Senior hunger is only a problem for poor people.

FACT – While low-income seniors suffer more, and often have to make disquieting choices between purchasing medication or food, senior hunger is not just an income issue. It is also a problem of access and care. Many seniors who can afford it, lack the mobility to get and prepare their own meals and don’t have other support systems to help them. Those same seniors and others live in areas that are more difficult to access.
Thanks to the tireless efforts of Meals On Wheels programs and volunteers on the ground, that we represent, some of these seniors will get a home-delivered meal and a caring visit. But not everyone who needs help. Right now and especially in this tough economic climate, our members lack the resources they need to make that happen.

This fact, for me, was the hardest to understand. I always thought that Meals On Wheels delivered only to the poor. But there are over 5,000 MOW’s around the United States and some are in the most affluent counties in the country. The need exists in every corner of our nation and it’s up to all of us to ensure these seniors are not forgotten.

Senior Hunger Myth #1

According to Enid Borden, Executive Director of Meals On Wheels Association of America (MOWAA), in her Huffington Post article in July 2011, there are four enduring myths about senior hunger in America.

In a four part series I will discuss each myth separately. Subscribe to our blog (the Sign Me Up button is in the right hand column) to be notified of future posts.


Myth #1 – Seniors are not going hungry in the U.S. 

FACT – As of 2009, there were almost 1 million seniors in the U.S. who go hungry because they cannot afford to buy food. Another 5 million seniors in the U.S. faced the threat of hunger. In one of the world’s richest nations, no older American should be going hungry. However instead, in recent years, hunger rates have more than doubled for poor seniors in the country, and it is likely to get worse as the older population is the fastest growing cohort of the U.S. population.

The people we serve here in Erie are the oldest and most frail in our population. There are approximately 7,536 elderly aged 65 or older in metro Erie. An unacceptable 24% poverty rate in Erie could potentially affect 1,808 of those seniors. We serve 370 daily. Clearly, more needs to be done. I will tackle how we can accomplish this in future posts. Keep your eyes on the road.