Headlines alert us to the impact of the aging of America. The “silver tsunami” or “age wave: is already here as over 10,000 Baby Boomers reach the age of 65 every single day.
One quarter of today’s 65-year-olds will live past the age of 90 and will experience many of their daily chores turning into insurmountable everyday challenges. Seniors as a percentage of the U.S. population will grow from 18 percent in 2010 to 26 percent in 2050. The number of seniors will double from 57 million in 2010 to 112 million in 2050.
In the United States, one quarter of our seniors now live in isolation. North Carolina is one of only five states in which more than 20 percent of seniors are struggling with hunger.
In North Carolina, 480,313 seniors are isolated and living alone; 384,085 are threatened by hunger; and 618,446 have difficulty paying for their basic needs. Roughly 19,468 N.C. seniors receive home-delivered meals from Meals on Wheels. This amounts to 2,871,059 delivered meals per year! A small study of 138 older adults without dementia who were seen in the emergency department at UNC Hospital in 2014 showed that more than half were malnourished or at risk of malnourishment (Pereira, 2014).
In a survey of North Carolinian meal recipients, 84 percent stated that the meals help them eat better, 92 percent reported that the meals enabled them to remain living at home, and 87 percent stated that the meals make them feel safer and more secure at home. Putting these responses into perspective, the cost of one year’s worth of home-delivered meals for one recipient ($1,600) is the cost equivalent of six days of care in a nursing facility or only one day at a hospital.
As the silver tsunami has broken shore, Chapel Hill-Carrboro Meals on Wheels (CHCMOW) has been providing life jackets of nutrition and personal care to meal recipients in this community for years now. In 2009, CHCMOW delivered 19,183 meals to shut-ins in Orange County, Chapel Hill, and Carrboro. In 2014, that number almost doubled to 36,121 meals, not including the hundreds of bagged lunches delivered for weekend consumption. In 2010, CHCMOW ran eight routes and delivered 70 meals on a daily basis. In 2014, CHCMOW grew to thirteen routes and delivered 150 meals daily.
To distribute those life jackets of nutrition and personal care, approximately 200 CHCMOW volunteers contributed a combined 17,000 hours of service and drove 65,000 miles. Forty-four percent of meal recipients identified as minority, 64 percent as female, and 31 percent as 85 years of age or older. Based on senior population estimates provided by Orange County, the demand for CHCMOW’s services will more than double again by 2024 to approximately 308 daily delivered meals (80,199 meals for the year).
In 2014, meals cost approximately $200,000, of which 73 percent of the costs were paid by CHCMOW. CHCMOW provided 2,858 meals at no cost to residents of Orange County, which were valued at $14,290. Seventy-eight percent of Orange County recipients paid less than half the actual cost of the meal. CHCMOW provided 3,578 meals at no cost to Chapel Hill residents, which were valued at $17,890. Seventy-five percent of Chapel Hill recipients paid less than half the actual cost of the meal. CHCMOW provided 2,805 meals at no cost to Carrboro residents, which were valued at $14,025. Eight-one percent of Carrboro recipients paid less than half the actual cost of the meal.
The silver tsunami is here to stay. CHCMOW has seen exponentially increasing demands for home delivered meals in this community. CHCMOW faces an everyday battle in locating and securing funds for operations, let alone acquiring funds for a much needed move to facilities that can accommodate the growth that CHCMOW already has experienced. CHCMOW is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, EIN #59-1721954. CHCMOW receives no federal or state funding and less than $.30 per meal from local government sources.
Perhaps, you can help CHCMOW figure out part of the funding dilemma at CHCMOW’s biggest fundraising event of the year. (See box for details). I will be there. I look forward hopefully to chatting with some of you there as well!
Jenna Meints is the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Meals on Wheels board chair for 2014-15.
How to help
What: 2nd Annual Dining for Dollars dinner and auction to support Chapel Hill-Carrboro Meals on Wheels
Where: Hickory Tavern; 370-110 E Main St, Carrboro, NC 27510
When: Thursday, June 4, 6-9pm
Ticket prices: $75 per couple, $60 per senior couple (over 65), and $40 per individual. Each person will receive one drink ticket (beer or wine), one appetizer, one entree, and one dessert.
Auction items: UNC/Duke basketball tickets, UNC Football game day experience for 4, golf at Pinehurst #8, beach rental, jewelry, DPAC tickets, Aruba resort vacation…..