Today, as part of my Community Nutrition class, I delivered meals to the elderly and infirm for Meals on Wheels. This is the report I wrote about my experience~
On July 1, 2009, Kyle and I delivered six meals to Meals on Wheels participants within Columbia. Many of the participants were shy but very polite. When they opened their doors, I always began with, “Hi, I’m a university student and I am delivering your meal today.” The participants, all elderly except for one, would glance quickly at us, then stare at the floor for a moment, and then look around for the meal. I usually stumbled while saying my introduction because they would be reaching for the meal quickly, and then politely but adamantly saying, “Thank you,” and be closing the door—all quicker than I can twelve words. One elderly woman was the exception. She was watching for us and met us in her driveway and had kind words to say to us when we told her we were university students. The last woman we delivered to was not elderly, but her voice trembled as she said “Thank you” and she was breathless, almost dropping the meal as we handed her bag of bread over. It was my impression that it takes great courage for her to open her door to the world everyday.
I had a wonderful time delivering the six meals. Meals on Wheels “meets the psychological and nutritional needs of homebound elderly participants” by providing human contact as a nutritional meal is delivered five days a week. The food looked good. My stomach was growling. Perhaps for many participants, this is usually their only human contact for the whole day. Many homes, as we stood in the doorway, smelled musty and dusty, as though unused to company. Perhaps the participants were shy because we were new people to them, but if we delivered weekly, I think we could have eventually been able to chat and be friendly. Many participants seemed ashamed to be receiving the meal. Their downcast eyes and abrupt movements speak of shame, and I wish I had a way to reassure them that there is no shame. Instead of saying, “Bye, have a nice day,” I should have said, “Thank you for being part of this program.” That’s the way I felt—thanks for letting us feel that we do not cast away our elders into loneliness and hunger.