For many seniors living in Ladera Heights, Hawthorne, Lennox and Inglewood, the Inglewood Senior Center’s Meals on Wheels program is a Godsend.
Funded by Los Angeles County and the city of Inglewood, the Meals on Wheels program prepares 600 hot nutritious meals a day. Three hundred of those meals are delivered daily to the homebound elderly.
“For many of the seniors, this may be the only hot meal they’ll receive in a day,” said Patricia Bitker, Meals on Wheels project director. “Some may be too infirmed to prepare their own meals, so the Meals on Wheels program provides a much needed service.”
In order to qualify, seniors who have been discharged from a nursing home, acute care facility or hospital must furnish a certificate from their doctor to receive home delivered meals. Family members can also call Meals on Wheels to enroll a loved one in the program.
Five trucks deliver the meals, which are kept warm at 140 degrees and delivered within two hours of preparation to meet health department regulations.
“We provide specialized meals for seniors with diabetes, seniors suffering from renal failure or seniors on dialysis,” said driver Jo Doucette. “We also deliver specialized meals to seniors who don’t eat pork, ground beef or fish. We try to accommodate the diets of the seniors as much as we can.”
Wallace A. Taylor, 95, said he is extremely grateful for the Meals on Wheels Program. A diabetic, Taylor must have his meals specially prepared, and Wallace said that Meals on Wheels more than meets the need. “The meals I receive are very balanced,” said Taylor, who has been enrolled in the Meals on Wheels program for three months.
Taylor said he eagerly waits for his driver, Jo Doucette, to drop off his meal each day between 11 and 11:30 a.m. “She is so nice,” said Taylor, nodding. “And the service I receive from the Meals on Wheels program is immaculate.”
Bitker said that despite the popularity of the home delivered meals, seniors are encouraged to eat their meals on site at one of the four centers.
“The meals are only $2.50 and the seniors don’t have to show any paperwork when they arrive. They can just drop by any of the centers at lunch time,” said Bitker, who said that the centers encourage seniors to socialize and eating together is a great booster to ward off depression or loneliness. “We found that the seniors who eat at the senior centers usually eat better and live longer,” she said.
And once they arrive at one of the centers, seniors are usually surprised to find that there is an abundance of activities available to keep them busy. Activities include yoga, choir, wellness programs, knitting, crocheting and sewing, Tai Chi exercises and even movies. “Once they come to the centers, the seniors discover that it is a great place to make new friends. They’ll look around at all the activity and say, ‘Hey, maybe I’ll stay for bingo,’ or ‘maybe I’ll stay and see a movie,’” said Bitker.
“Coming to the senior centers allows them to be around their peers,” said driver Chris Alexander, who daily transports seniors to the center in a brightly colored green and red trolley. “They can come here and play cards, look at television or talk to fellow seniors,” said Alexander. “Coming to eat and socialize at the senior centers lifts their spirits and makes them feel young.”