Who Are the Recipients of Meals-on-Wheels in New York City?: A Profile of Based on a Representative Sample of Meals-on-Wheels Recipients, Part I

By Frongillo, Edward A.; Cantor, Marjorie H. et al. | Care Management Journals, April 1, 2010 | Go to article overview

Who Are the Recipients of Meals-on-Wheels in New York City?: A Profile of Based on a Representative Sample of Meals-on-Wheels Recipients, Part I


Frongillo, Edward A., Cantor, Marjorie H., MacMillan, Thalia, Issacman, Tanushree D., Sherrow, Rachel, Henry, Megan, Wethington, Elaine, Pillemer, Karl, Care Management Journals


Keywords: home-delivered meals; nutrition program; older persons; frailty

Editor's Note. The following article is the first of two parts, reprinted and adapted for the Care Management Journals with permission from Citymeals-on-Wheels. Part II will appear in a future issue.

Every day in New York City, many thousands of meals are distributed to older people who are homebound and deemed to have difficulty with meal preparation. In addition to ensuring that such elders receive at least one nutritious meal each weekday and have meals for the weekend, home-delivered meals help reduce social isolation through daily contact with the meal provider (i.e., the driver). Case management agencies certify the eligibility for participation in the program and offer backup services as needed. The daily home-delivered meals are funded by the Older Americans Act through subcontracts from local Areas on Aging offices to community groups, primarily senior centers. Weekend meals and holiday meals are funded in New York City by Citymeals-on-Wheels , a nonprofit organization receiving, in the main, contributions from private citizens in the community.

Although the home-delivered meals program has been in operation for a considerable period of time, there is little information regarding the nature of the participants, their degree of isolation, how they prepare and utilize the meals received, and their views about the value of the program to them.

To learn more about the program, its participants, and their preparation, utilization and satisfaction with the delivered meals, Citymealson- Wheels and the Cornell Institute for Translational Research on Aging jointly undertook the current study. We hope that the findings will answer many questions about the recipients and their social and nutritional needs and will provide findings that will be useful in future planning for the program regarding client satisfaction and the extent to which the program realizes its stated goals.

KEY FINDINGS

Recipients of home-delivered meals are a diverse group, as illustrated by their demographic, economic, and social characteristics and by their use of home-delivered meals.

Demographic, Economic, and Social Characteristics

* Recipients are an ethnic mix, with 63% White, 29% Black, 11% Hispanic, and 1% Asian (an underestimate because of the languages used in the survey).

* The majority are older; two-thirds are 80 years and older, and 12% are 90 years and older. One-third are in their 70s, and 12% are younger than 70. White recipients are older on average than Blacks and Hispanics.

* About three-fourths (73%) live alone.

* Almost two-thirds are currently widowed.

* Almost three-fourths are women.

* Three-fourths are high school graduates or attended college, and l5% have only an elementary school education.

* One-fifth of recipients have at least one indication of diffi- culty getting access to food, and 6% (or 1,000 recipients) cannot make ends meet financially. Hispanic recipients are poorer on average than Whites and Blacks.

* About half have difficulty walking most of the time. Use of assistive devices is widespread, with 66% using a cane, 39% using a walker, and 16% using a wheel chair.

* About one-third have vision problems most of the time, and 15% have hearing problems most of the time.

* Many indicate a need for assistance in the tasks of daily living most of the time, especially with heavy chores (50%), shopping (28%), light chores (23%), and bathing and showering (20%).

* About 40% rarely or never leave their homes. Another onefourth leaves two to four times a week, and a small number leaves five or more times a week.

* Most have some component of an informal support system, mainly children who they see and with whom they talk, but 27% did not have any children, and 8% (or 1,300 recipients) have no one with whom to talk.

* Most recipients have spoken to a social worker, but only about one-third reported contact with any other community service with the exception of Social Security and Medicare. …

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