United Way of Northwest Vermont
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Blog post: Delivering so much more than a meal

Contributed by Tracey Shamberger, Age Well

Great leaders have said the test of any community is how it treats its most vulnerable. We have certainly been put to the test during the COVID-19 pandemic. Older adults, our most vulnerable population, have needed more support than ever before.

The Meals on Wheels program ensures that our aging neighbors and loved ones receive delicious and nutritious food. Many are homebound and unable to prepare their own food. And it may be the only meal or visitor they receive on any given day. Many recipients say the daily meal and friendly visit make them feel more safe and secure and less lonely, while allowing them to remain living at home. Access to healthy meals, in-home care, and wellness programs help combat the three biggest threats of aging: hunger, isolation, and loss of independence.

Supporting older adults is both a priority and a privilege. As the leading experts and advocates for the aging population of Northwest Vermont, Age Well believes that health happens at home. Our focus is on lifestyle, happiness and wellness—not age.

Our mission is to provide the support and guidance that inspires our community to embrace aging with confidence. For nearly 50 years, Age Well has enabled older adults to avoid far more costly healthcare alternatives, such as unnecessary trips to the emergency room, hospitalizations and nursing home placement. Research has proven that when older adults have the right support, they live a healthier, longer and more independent life.

“If it weren’t for Meals on Wheels, I don’t know what I would do. I spent my whole life cooking for others but now it is just too hard. Without transportation and the ability to get around easily, I rely on my meals and look forward to seeing a friendly face each day.” – Mindy, Meals on Wheels Recipient

The aging population in Vermont is growing rapidly, with the number of people over the age of 65 projected to increase 16 percent by 2030. In ten years, when the last baby boomers turn 65, older adults will make up a full quarter of the population. As of the last census, fewer than 42,000 Vermonters were 75 or older. By 2030 that figure is projected to double to nearly 86,000.

While we celebrate the increase in lifespan, maintaining health while aging comes with a price. Without support from programs like Meals on Wheels many older adults have no choice but to trade their homes for nursing facilities. Interestingly, it costs less to provide Meals on Wheels for an entire year than it costs to spend one day in the hospital or ten days in a nursing home. Meals on Wheels saves us all unnecessary Medicaid and Medicare expenses every year – tax dollars that can be spent in much better ways.

Providing older Vermonters with the necessary support to manage their daily living needs, with the goal of keeping them active, healthy and independent, Age Well programs enhance quality of life and improve health outcomes.

Delivered by staff members and more than 1,000 volunteers, services are designed to meet the diverse needs of clients, their families and caregivers. Age Well does not charge for services. As a nonprofit the agency relies on volunteers, donations, federal, state, individual, corporate and community support.

The Vermont community has emphatically risen to the challenge by supporting the work we do at Age Well. Volunteers stepped in to deliver meals and community partners like United Way of Northwest Vermont were instrumental in promoting our volunteer program and providing additional COVID-19 support funds. This support ensured we could meet the increased demand for Meals on Wheels. Without you and our volunteers, our mission would be impossible.

Age Well