A recent study confirms that meals are just one benefit to Meals on Wheels which also provides psychological and health benefits, particularly to seniors who live alone.
Funded by AARP Foundation and conducted by researchers at Brown University, the “More Than a Meal” study confirms what people involved with Meals on Wheels programs have always known anecdotally, says Lee Karker, MCH’s Executive Director.
The study concluded seniors living alone who received meals showed statistically significant reductions in feelings of isolation, an effect that was greater if they received meals daily rather than weekly. They also felt significantly less lonely, were less worried about staying in their homes, and said they felt safer. The research also found that those receiving meals experienced fewer falls and hospitalizations.
“Thanks to continued support from our local community, MCH Meals on Wheels has always been able to honor its commitment to serve daily home delivered meals to everyone in Knox County who needs them,” says Karker.
However, in light of a rapidly aging population, increasing food and transportation costs, and limited federal funding, many Meals on Wheels programs across the country have been forced to consider delivering frozen meals, less frequently, in order to save costs and meet the growing demand.
The “More Than A Meal” study was conducted to evaluate whether trade-offs are being made that pit shorter-term meal cost savings against longer-term health benefits. The study was very clear that frozen meals delivered less often had fewer health and wellbeing benefits.
Three groups of seniors were interviewed for this study: seniors receiving traditional daily home-delivered meals, seniors receiving one weekly bulk delivery of frozen meals and people who simply remained on waiting list.
By lessening feelings of isolation and loneliness and reducing the rate of falls, the findings suggest that the traditional Meals on Wheels daily service delivery model have the greatest potential to decrease healthcare costs. While alternative service models such as weekly frozen meal delivery may be less costly on the front end, this study suggests that sacrifices related to health and quality of life must be considered.