Have you ever wondered where all the volunteers that serve America’s seniors come from? There’s really no coordinated source. Most people who help do so because they’ve decided on their own to do so.
The pipeline of new volunteers isn’t exactly high flow. That’s a challenge for programs like Meals on Wheels America, which relies on more than 2 million volunteers nationwide to deliver daily meals to homebound seniors. With the population of Americans over the age of 65 expected to double by 2050, some organizations are starting to sound alarm bells.
America’s volunteers are aging too
A recent survey of Meals on Wheels America’s volunteer base showed that more than 75 percent are older than 55; the mean age of Meals on Wheels volunteers is 62. That has generated concern that there simply aren’t enough younger, replacement volunteers to fill needs in the near future.
There are already an estimated 10 million seniors in the U.S. who are at risk of going hungry. One in four older Americans lives in isolation, according a new consortium formed to address the critical shortage of volunteers needed to help.
Accordingly, this summer, Meals on Wheels America and the Ad Council launched the first national campaign to recruit volunteers to serve the nation's growing number of seniors. #LetsDoLunch seeks to connect young, working adults with seniors by encouraging them to donate time during their lunch hours to deliver meals to older people in need.
In Cincinnati, volunteers can get involved in the #LetsDoLunch campaign with the Deupree Meals On Wheels program.
Based out of Episcopal Retirement Services’ (ERS) flagship Deupree House retirement community in Hyde Park, the Deupree Meals On Wheels program has been serving Greater Cincinnati’s homebound seniors for 27 years.
Volunteers prepare and deliver lunches to nearly 500 area recipients, every Tuesday through Friday. Frozen meals are provided to some clients to meet weekend needs. The program also makes and stores non-perishable meals, which would be used in large-scale emergencies.
Deupree Meals On Wheels delivers more than 100,000 hot meals per year to seniors in need. Each meal is nutritionally balanced, with an entrée, a vegetable, a salad, a starch and milk or juice. Low-fat, low-sodium and other special dietary needs are also provided on an individual basis.
And not every meal is delivered during traditional lunch times. Off-hour deliveries can be scheduled when a senior — say, one who has a midday doctor’s appointment — will not be home during the normal delivery hours. So some volunteers are always needed late in the day, after work.
Meals on Wheels deliveries are more than just meal drop-offs
For many senior recipients, Meals on Wheels deliveries are their only daily face-to-face contacts with other human beings. Deliveries are an important social lifeline — they not only help to reduce seniors’ feelings of isolation, but they also are important opportunities to check up on seniors’ wellbeing.
Deupree Meals On Wheels volunteers are trained to respond in the case of emergencies. All of our senior clients provides the program with their emergency contact lists.
If our delivery volunteers receive no answer at the door, they report it back, allowing us to immediately reach out to that client senior’s emergency contacts or, if necessary, to contact emergency responders.
More help needed
The need for Deupree Meals On Wheels volunteers is great. Our client recipients are a diverse group and our volunteers enjoy meeting and getting to know the many seniors who rely on our help.
Do you have time in your schedule to help us prepare or deliver meals to the Tristate’s homebound seniors? Whether you donate several hours a week, or just a half hour on one day a week, our client seniors need you. Your efforts are very much appreciated.