Meals on Wheels Ypsilanti joins Seniors Helping Seniors to bring extra care to the doorsteps of seniors.

A deliverer for Meals on Wheels stands next to her car, full of meals in coolers going to seniors for the week. All photos are courtesy of Megan Berry.

Meals on Wheels has long had the goal of ending the loneliness of isolation and bringing a smile to homebound seniors. This non-profit organization brings food to the doors of clientele that can no longer assemble meals for themselves. 

Meals on Wheels finds individuals in the community who don’t need full-time at-home care, but would benefit from extra help on a weekly basis. Once the resident is identified, they become a part of the weekly home meal delivery. This program includes lunch and dinner for 6 days a week delivered to doorsteps on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. 

A Meals on Wheels recipient sits with her dogs, smiling after her weekly supply of meals was delivered.

A little over a year ago, Meals on Wheels started to notice that their seniors could use some additional interaction. The team knew that a little bit of socialization would bring significant change into the lives of their clients; ranging from light housekeeping such as vacuuming, laundry and taking out the trash to walking pets or simply spending some time interacting with the seniors.

After the Ypsilanti Meals on Wheels team developed this plan, they set out to fund the new project. With the help of a $7,500 grant from United Way of Washtenaw County, Care on Wheels was born; a partnership between Meals on Wheels and Seniors Helping Seniors

Care on Wheels would bring meals to the doors of seniors by other seniors who could interact with them,  as well as help around the house. This was a way for clients to receive light homecare and meals without having to pay for a full-time caregiver. More importantly, this was an amazing opportunity for seniors to socialize with one another. 

“I have been touched by the connections and the relationships that drivers who drop off food have made with the seniors,” said Megan Berry, a Meals on Wheels social worker who helps to identify potential clients in the community. “[The seniors] are on a first name basis with most of the delivery people. Through seeing each other three times a week, the drivers are really able to identify when someone is having a bad day without verbal interaction. Most of the time they can just tell by their body language when they come to the door.” 

Carmo Ribeiro, owner of Seniors Helping Seniors, was ecstatic at the idea of partnering with Meals on Wheels to create an experience for seniors that their team could not accomplish on their own. 

Seniors Helping Seniors is an organization that provides non-medical home care for seniors by seniors. Ribeiro believes that this model provides seniors who have either just retired or are in retirement with an opportunity to give back and find some purpose. The organization brings together people who are at different stages of their life cycles together to help each other. One goal of the group is to make sure that all involved benefit in the process, and Ribero says peer connections are important no matter what stage of life you are in.

A deliverer for Meals on Wheels stands with a recipient on her porch after her meals were delivered.

“[The caregivers] provide three hours of services per month,” Ribeiro said. “We try to coordinate to make sure that we have the same person going back every month to avoid frustration [among the seniors] and people having to be introduced to different caregivers. The caregivers and the seniors are able to share memories and relate to each other since they are similar in age.”

Both Berry and Ribeiro alike are hoping to extend the partnership through grants to grow their staff. With more staff and extra hands on deck, they both believe that they will be able to reach more seniors in Washtenaw County. 

“Our goal is for seniors to develop relationships with the people that are visiting them and to make sure that they are not alone,” Ribeiro said. “ We want them to know that there are people in the community that care about them. Our caregivers will be there for them if they don’t have family members around or other people around.” 

For more information on donating, volunteering or signing up for services visit ymow.org

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