A plan by the Area Agency on Aging to next month start switching Meals on Wheels deliveries in Susquehanna County to three times a week from its current five days a week has raised concerns over whether some closed in seniors will continue to get enough attention.
Seniors will continue to receive the same number of meals per week, Meals on Wheels executive director Marlea Hoyt emphasized, and staff members from the Towanda-based service which serves Bradford, Sullivan, Susquehanna and Tioga counties will check in with seniors as the program progresses. One in four people in the Endless Mountains is 60 years of age or over.
“People will still receive the same number of meals, it’s just that the delivery will go to 3 days a week,” Hoyt said by telephone Tuesday. “We’re not cutting their meal service. They’re going to get the same number of meals they’ve always gotten, it’s just that the delivery will go from 5 days a week to 3 days a week,” Hoyt said.
But Susquehanna County Commissioner Maryann Warren expressed her concerns over the drop of what amounts to safety checks on some of the more vulnerable seniors.
“I think that safety check is more important than the food that is delivered,” Warren said.
“These are people who are home alone all day long. That visit means a lot,” she said. “We feel that people need to be visited Monday through Friday.”
Rep. Jonathan Fritz (R- Parts of Wayne and Susquehanna) also expressed concerns over the change and issued a statement: “My office is working to provide resources and information from Commonwealth sources, in particular, the Aging and Older Adult Services Committee staff.”
Seniors will also keep getting hot meals Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and on Mondays and Wednesdays will get easily heated up frozen meals for their Tuesday and Thursday meals, Hoyt said.
The Area Agency on Aging organization, known as B/S/S/T after the four counties it serves, delivers hot and cold meals to 135 seniors in Susquehanna County through the county’s senior activity centers. Year to date, B/S/S/T delivered 139,548 meals in all four counties it serves, Hoyt said.
“We’re very, very sensitive to this change,” Hoyt said. “We are going to be making contact with all of our individual consumers because they are in the forefront. They are our most important individuals in this and we’re going to work very hard to make this change as smooth as possible and try to make sure that we’re looking at each individual’s unique circumstances.”
Hoyt said that research gathered from other counties revealed that some seniors found that the days they weren’t having to plan on getting hot meals were then used for medical appointments or for other purposes.
Hoyt said that her office would be phoning clients Tuesdays and Thursdays as a reminder after the new schedule goes into effect. Volunteers will also be available for those individuals who may have concerns of social isolation and to check in on any issues or concerns. Others determined to be at risk for falls may also be considered for a Personal Emergency Response System (PERS).
The B/S/S/T Area Agency on Aging, Inc. is funded in Susquehanna County in part by the Pennsylvania Department of Aging; the United Way of Susquehanna County and the Susquehanna County Commissioners.
For additional information on Area Agency on Aging services, please call 1-800-982-4346.