Celebrating 40 Years of Senior Nutrition Programs

Area senior centers will be marking the 40th anniversary of the Older American Act Nutrition Programs with cake and ice cream from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday.

The celebration will take place at senior centers in Escanaba, Gladstone, Hermansville, Daggett, Menominee and Manistique. Portage Health in Houghton County has been participating in the National Association of Nutrition and Aging Service Program—sometimes referred to as Meals on Wheels—for years.

Meals are available to seniors over age 60 at a reduced or no cost. Meals are even available for those under 60 with certain medical conditions. Many seniors go hungry because they aren’t aware of the program. A simple phone call to a local social worker would bring hot meals to your door—or by just asking your doctor.

The nutrition programs were made part of the Older Americans Act March 22, 1972.

According to a press release from the National Association of Nutrition and Aging Services Programs, few if any federal programs in history have performed as effectively for the people it serves than the nutrition programs.

Assistant Secretary for Aging, Kathy Greenlee, reports that, since 1972, eight billion meals have been served to older Americans. Every day an older adult participates in either the congregate or home-delivered meals programs means they are able to remain in their communities and homes, maintain their independence and not face the prospect of hospital or nursing home placement due to malnutrition or hunger.

The future of the nutrition programs may rest on demonstrating the return on investment it provides each and every year and allowing it to expand and become a more integral part of our home and community-based long-term care strategy as well as our health, prevention and wellness strategies for older adults. Dollars invested in the Older Americans Act especially its largest program, the nutrition programs will more than be offset by savings that will be achieved to both Medicaid and Medicare in terms of costs associated with hospital and nursing home care.

The Congregate Nutrition Services and Home‐Delivered Nutrition Services provide food and socialization for older adults in their own homes or in the community, for about $1,300 per year. This $1,300 per year is the same as the cost of six days in a nursing home or one day of hospitalization.

We salute the visionaries in the White House and Congress who in 1972 saw the need for this program. We thank those in succeeding Administrations and Congresses who have continued their support of the programs and are addressing its future. We pay tribute to our members and all those dedicated men and women in the national aging network who by their daily work have contributed to the success story of these programs and of course we salute the older adults who participate and benefit from these programs each and every day. They are older adults who are committed to better nutrition being the key to better health.