Academic journal article Care Management Journals

The Home-Delivered Meals Program: A Promising Intervention for Suburban Older Adults Living Alone

Academic journal article Care Management Journals

The Home-Delivered Meals Program: A Promising Intervention for Suburban Older Adults Living Alone

Article excerpt

This study examined differences in perceived benefits of home-delivered meals between older adults living alone and those living with others. Recommendations were also discussed to enhance services by examining differences between these two subgroups.

This study used secondary data analysis focusing on two open-ended questions that were collected in a client satisfaction survey conducted by AgeOptions, the Area Agency on Aging (AAA) in suburban Cook County, Illinois. Out of 199 older adults or their caregivers who participated in the survey, 126 (63.3%) older adults were living alone. All of the survey participants shared their perception of home-delivered meals benefits, and 91 respondents (45.7%) offered recommendations on the program.

The results suggest that there is a greater need for transportation options, financial security, regular safety checks, and basic support for older adults who live alone compared to those living with others. The most frequent recommendation from all older adults was increasing the variety of meal options. Older adults living alone complained less about taste and the way meals were cooked than older adults living with others, but they requested availability of meals customized for those with unique needs. Additionally, older adults living alone offered a wider range of recommendations for the program as well as identify more diverse benefits from the program than those living with others.

Keywords: meals on wheels; telephone survey; nutrition program; elderly

Home-delivered meals comprised 62% of the total meals served by the Older Americans Act (OAA) Nutrition Program in fiscal year 2009 (Colello, 2011). Approximately 1 million older adults rely on home-delivered meals, and the demand for the program keeps increasing every year (Anderson, Netterville, & Sahyoun, 2014). Research has shown that the homedelivered meals program has a stronger positive impact on older adults who live alone versus those living with others (Frongillo & Wolfe, 2010). Therefore, it is critical to explore how the homedelivered meals program has helped older adults living alone and to understand their perspectives on the program. The purpose of this study is to examine differences in perceived benefits of the home-delivered meals program between older adults living alone and those living with others, and to identify recommendations to enhance home-delivered meal services by looking at differences between these two subgroups.

AGING IN PLACE

Because life expectancy has increased, there has been growing interest in "aging in place" by academia as well as in practice. The term aging in place is defined as remaining independent by living in homes and communities rather than in assisted living facilities (Wiles, Leibing, Guberman, Reeve, & Allen, 2012). Recently, younger adults as well as older adults desire to maintain their residence to remain close to familiar surroundings as they age (Graybill, McMeekin, & Wildman, 2014; Tang & Lee, 2011). According to a national survey conducted by AARP, nearly 75% of Americans age 45 years and older expressed a strong desire to stay in their communities for as long as possible (Keenan, 2010; Scharlach, 2012).

The increasing attention to aging in place assists communities in developing resources and enhancing interventions that help older adults live independently in their own homes (Scharlach, 2012).The Administration on Aging (AoA) has prioritized aging in place initiatives by supporting more than 29,000 home and community-based organizations (Carbonell, 2007). Furthermore, the aging network has been trying to empower older adults to make decisions about aging in place by providing information and connection through social service agencies (Tang & Lee, 2011).

THE HOME-DELIVERED MEALS PROGRAM

The home-delivered meals program was established in 1978 as one of the OAA nutrition programs. The purpose of the OAA Nutrition Program is "to reduce hunger and food insecurity, to promote socialization, and to promote health and well-being and delay adverse health conditions" by increasing accessibility to balanced nutrition and providing disease prevention and health promotion education (AoA, n. …

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