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Helping Older Adults “Engage at Every Age”

Each day, across the country, Meals on Wheels volunteers deliver more than 900,000 meals to older Americans at senior centers and in their own homes.

May is Older Americans Month, a time when we recognize the contributions of older Americans and think about how we as Americans work together to support and value people over age 65. The theme this year is “Engage at Every Age.”

Research suggests that seniors who are socially engaged are also healthier, mentally and physically. That’s why the Administration for Community Living is committed to supporting older adults with the tools and services they need to continue to engage in their communities throughout their lives.

Through the national aging network, which includes thousands of agencies and organizations in every state, and with the help of advocates and partners from both the public and private sectors, ACL is working to connect older Americans and their families to the systems of services and supports available to help them remain healthy, live independently, and prevent abuse and neglect, as well as support caregivers. We’re also working together to expand employment opportunities for older adults who wish to work. 

One of our best-known programs is the home-delivered meals program, which is operated in partnership with states and communities. Each day, across the country, volunteers of all ages and backgrounds deliver more than 900,000 meals to older Americans at senior centers and in their own homes.

Today, I had a chance to be one of those volunteers. I accompanied HHS Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan on a trip to deliver meals along with staff from Meals on Wheels of Takoma Park/Silver Spring. With a staff of two and a volunteer corps of 60 strong, the organization cooks up and delivers more than 20,000 meals each year. It’s one of more than 5,000 community-based programs that provide meals to more than 2.4 million seniors in virtually every community in America.

These meals offer more than good nutrition. According to a recent evaluation conducted by ACL, 90 percent of people who receive home-delivered meals report that the program helps them live independently. In addition, the meals programs also provide an important link to other home- and community-based services, such as homemaker services, transportation, home repair, safety checks and activities that improve health and quality of life.  Together, these services help people live independently in their communities – instead of in far more expensive residential facilities like nursing homes.

ACL was created around the fundamental principle that all people, regardless of age or disability, should be able to live independently – and to “Engage at Every Age,” throughout their lives. The nutrition programs created by the Older Americans Act play a key role in making that possible for millions of people. People like those we met today.

I can’t think of a better way to kick off Older Americans Month!

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