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Meals on Wheels could help keep seniors safe

An older woman sits at a table eating.

July 16, 2019— Every year in the U.S., Meals on Wheels delivers nourishing food to nearly 2.4 million homebound seniors. But its drivers have the potential to provide far more than a welcome meal, a new study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society shows. They could serve as an early warning system of deteriorating health in older adults.

The study involved program drivers in two counties. They were trained to use an app that sends alerts if they have a concern about a senior and to report any changes in a senior's condition. Care coordinators then followed up to connect vulnerable seniors with appropriate services.

Over the course of a year, the drivers submitted 429 alerts for 189 seniors. The most frequent alerts were for:

  • Changes in health (56%).
  • Self-care or safety issues (12%).
  • Mobility concerns (11%).

Those alerts led to 132 referrals. The most referrals were for help with:

  • Self-care.
  • Health services.
  • Care management.

An expanding service

This new role for Meals on Wheels drivers is a safe, low-cost and effective way to keep an eye on isolated seniors—and to intervene if they need help, the researchers said.

The service is being expanded to as many as 30 additional sites across the country. Call your local program if you're interested in volunteering and ensuring the welfare of seniors in your community.

Changing nutrition needs

Find out how your nutrition needs change as you age. What you learn can protect your health.

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