By Mikala McCurry
Montgomery Area Council on Aging (MACOA) provides a variety of services for seniors in Montgomery, Autauga, Elmore, Coosa, and Tallapoosa counties. Their flagship program, Meals on Wheels, provides eligible seniors with a nutritious meal Monday through Friday delivered by a volunteer.
“Our Meals on Wheels clients are seniors who can no longer drive to get groceries or shop. In some situations, their ability to cook is also difficult,” MACOA CEO Donna Marietta said. “It is a wonderful service we can provide to assist seniors with being able to stay in their homes.”
MACOA volunteers also visit with seniors when delivering their meals so they don’t feel isolated and alone.
“Many seniors are afraid that if they tell their loved ones they are depressed from being isolated or having difficulties with obtaining and preparing meals, their loved ones will want them to move or go into a nursing home. Our volunteers provide a multi-purpose solution by bringing them hot meals and also performing safety checks to make sure they are okay,” Marietta said.
To keep the Meals on Wheels program running, MACOA is constantly recruiting volunteers and fundraising to purchase food for the meals. They are currently serving 416 clients every weekday. They also have a frozen meal program with meals donated from the community for qualified applicants who are on the waiting list for the hot meal program. They are currently serving 138 senior clients every two weeks with that program.
“It’s a way for us to provide them with some form of nutrition while they’re waiting to get in on a hot meal route,” Amy Dennis, MACOA Development Coordinator said. “They’ll have a caregiver, family member or volunteer come pick up their 10 frozen meals every two weeks.”
Over the past two years, MACOA has been working to identify gaps in their services to enhance their programs for seniors through an assessment provided by the Department of Senior Services.
“COVID highlighted some of the difficulties seniors face in terms of food access and not having the proper nutrition to get them through the day. We recognized that for some of our hot meal program clients, we might be the only source of nutrition they have, so we began serving frozen meals to some of our hot meal clients on the weekends,” Dennis said.
Meals on Wheels is part of a network of national organizations working to combat food insecurity, malnutrition and social isolation to enable the dependence of seniors and to improve their overall health.
“The nutrition program helps to keep our seniors healthy and happy and leads to better health outcomes by combating health problems that come from poor nutrition. We also know from research and data that people who are able to remain in their homes are doing better socially, and having that one-on-one contact with someone every day is improving their overall mental health,” Dennis said.
MACOA also provides a Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) for healthy seniors who want to make a difference in their communities. In 2021, RSVP contributed over 108,000 hours of community service.
“We help them find a project they are interested in and connect them with that organization. Both our Meals on Wheels program and RSVP have over 1,000 volunteers,” Marietta said.
Since its inception in 1972, Meals on Wheels has provided over 4.5 million meals to seniors. This is made possible through compassionate staff, volunteers, community members and sponsors.
“In 1972, the same year we were incorporated, former president Nixon signed an amendment to the Older Americans Act of 1965, which included a national nutrition program for seniors 60 and older,” Dennis said. “While we’re celebrating our 50th anniversary, we’re also celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Older Americans Act and this amendment. This is the same law we’re continuing to amend today to provide more services to our seniors throughout the nation.”
To celebrate 50 years of service, MACOA will hold several events throughout the year. These events include a Culinary Caper on April 10, 2022, at the RSA Activity Center in Montgomery, AL; a Swinging Fore Seniors Golf Classic on May 18, 2022, at Robert Trent Golf Trails in Prattville, AL; and an anniversary breakfast in September of 2022.
“50 years is a long time to sustain a program. We not only survived but thrived; that proves there is a need, and we’re doing something of value in the community,” Marietta said.
Those needing services or interested in volunteering can contact the MACOA office at (334) 263-0532 or connect through social media @MACOA on Facebook and @MACOAMealsonWheels on Instagram. For more information on MACOA, visit https://www.macoa.org/.
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