In March, we celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Older Americans Act Nutrition Programs. In 1972, Congress added the Nutrition Program to the Older Americans Act (OAA). Since this time, it has been implemented throughout the United States, with more than 8 billion nutritious meals served to older adults at congregate sites or as home-delivered meals. Chautauqua County Office for the Aging receives funding from the Older Americans Act along with state and county funding to administer the Senior Nutrition Programs for Chautauqua County. This valuable program was designed to help reduce hunger and malnutrition which lead to poor health and decreased ability to function in the community. Adequate quality nutrition is essential for health and the meals provided in this program meet evidence-based nutrition standards. This program was also designed to increase activity and socialization. A social interconnectedness and active social engagement helps to improve health outcomes and quality of life. For the home bound meal recipient they receive a daily contact with someone. Often a strong relationship develops between the recipient and the person who delivers the meals; this may be the only human contact they receive throughout their day. Along with food and social contacts, this program provides the opportunity for nutritional education and counseling to help older adults and their caregivers make more informed choices to prevent, manage and control health issues.
Few if any federal programs have performed as well for the people it serves, nor have been as good an investment of the taxpayer dollar as the nutrition programs. Every day an older adult participates in the programs means they are able to remain in their communities and homes, maintain their independence and decrease the chance of hospitalizations or nursing home placement. The future of the nutrition programs may rest on demonstrating the return on investment, these programs will more than be offset by savings that will be achieved to both Medicaid and Medicare in terms of costs associated with hospitalization or nursing home care. People want to stay in the community and the cost for targeted homecare along with meals is only a fraction of the cost of health care facilities.
It is important for everyone to communicate with their federal, state and local representatives to prevent any further cuts to these and other valuable senior programs. The Older Americans Act is presently in the process of being reauthorized at the federal level, so it is imperative that our voices be heard to increase funding. It seems the trend is to level fund or make cuts to senior programs when the senior populations and needs are only increasing. Don't let the decision makers continue to cut senior services at any government level; let your voices be heard. We have a huge opportunity to influence decision making by our elected officials simply due to the increasing numbers of older Americans known as the "Baby Boomers."
Please remember to contribute toward your OFA nutrition services if you can. These programs are not sustainable at current levels without the support of participant contributions. Be aware that Food Stamps can be used toward your contribution. I do not want to have to make any further cuts to nutrition services. Thank you for your support.
Chautauqua County Office for the Aging Senior Nutrition Program provides nutritious noon meals at several congregate dining sites throughout the county, along with a Restaurant Dining Out Program. Our dietitian, Cheryl Wahlstrom, RD, is available for nutrition counseling in your home at no cost to you. We also sponsor several exercise programs. For more details and information, call the office at 753-4471, 661-7471 or 363-4471.