Approximately 87% of adults ages 65 and older report that they prefer to stay in their homes as they age, according to an AARP survey. Known as “aging in place,” this trend presents a challenge—as aging baby boomers develop chronic health problems and mobility complications in their homes, they face increasing isolation and may have trouble meeting basic needs.
That’s where people like Sue Phelps come in. Phelps is a volunteer for Meals on Wheels, a program that delivers meals to individuals at home who are unable to purchase or prepare their own meals. In the Greater Lansing area, this program is operated by the Tri-County Office on Aging. Once a week, Sue gathers prepared hot meals from the organization’s Lansing-based office and delivers them to elderly residents in Holt.
But for Phelps and many volunteers like her, it’s so much more than a meal.
“Sometimes we’re the only person that these people see in the course of a day,” she said. “You keep your eyes open when you visit them to make sure that they’re okay.”
Phelps started volunteering for Meals on Wheels eight years ago with her son. She not only ensures that each recipient is able to enjoy a fresh, nutritious meal, but she checks in on them to make sure that they’re in good health and able to meet their basic needs.
According to Casey Cooper, Fundraising and Volunteer Specialist for the Tri-County Office on Aging, volunteers like Sue are essential to the Meals on Wheels program.
“Our volunteers are our eyes and ears on the ground,” Cooper said. “These volunteers are so essential. Without volunteers, there is no program.”
The Tri-County Office on Aging serves approximately 3,000 clients across Clinton, Eaton and Ingham counties. In addition to coordinating the Meals on Wheels program, the office also provides wellness and nutrition programs for seniors, caregiver support, a Michigan Medicare/Medicaid assistance program, and much more. Each one of these crucial services offered to area seniors is powered by volunteers.
“At a time like this when we are seeing needs increase because more baby boomers are getting older, these programs keep the community safe,” she said. “Most older adults want to age in place and to do that they need some support.”
Currently, delivery drivers are the organization’s biggest need. But volunteers also can help with meal preparation, teaching wellness courses, walking seniors and families through Michigan’s Medicaid and Medicare plans, and providing assistance in the office. Volunteers can serve on a recurring basis, like Sue, who delivers meals once a week, or on an as-needed basis when the organization requires extra support.
“You really feel connected in your community when you get the chance to give back like this,” Cooper said. “These are your neighbors and your friends. We think that giving back is so important because we all know older adults and one day we’ll be older adults.”
For Sue, it’s about supporting people who may not have anyone else to lean on.
“We all go an extra mile for them,” she said. “Who else is going to do it? We’re all responsible for each other. We have to help people. We just do. That’s the bottom line.”
Meals on Wheels is operated by the Tri-County Office on Aging, located at 5303 South Cedar Street in Lansing, 517.887.1440, www.tcoa.org
Want to give back to the Delhi Township community? Become a volunteer!
Please contact Volunteer Bureau Coordinator Melanie McNamara at 517-256-7212 or firstname.lastname@example.org