Receiving emails from readers of my column is always wonderful. Whether the reader agrees with me or has an opposing viewpoint, I welcome all input and respond to each and every one. I often get inquiries about what is available for seniors who need a little help.

I have been an avid supporter of Meals on Wheels (MOW) Diablo Region for many years, and must say it’s a joy to write about this fine organization. I tip my hat to them for providing excellent care and service to our homebound seniors and others over 60 in need of kindness. Services are free and only voluntary donations are accepted.

I had the pleasure of meeting with Susannah Meyer, MOW’s Community Engagement Director, to discuss the organization’s current efforts and recently added services. I’ve known her for several years and she filled me in on all of MOW’s exciting news.

But first — for those unfamiliar with what Meals on Wheels is all about — let me tell you they’re much more than a provider of meals. Through a coordinated effort, they offer a full range of support services for seniors over 60. The original idea was to provide healthy meals to those who cannot cook for themselves. After an initial assessment visit and notes to ensure safety, a volunteer driver would deliver hot, well-balanced meals to homebound seniors every weekday. This is still the case, but Susannah told me that if someone will also need meals on the weekend, MOW will bring two frozen meals on Friday, fully prepared for easy reheating.

For more mobile seniors on limited budgets, Meals on Wheels Diablo Region operates several C.C. Cafes. These facilities offer seniors a place to gather and socialize while enjoying a free or low-cost lunch ($3.00 for those who can afford it, but it’s considered a recommended donation, not mandatory). There are several locations in Contra Costa County, six of which are managed by MOW. You can also find C.C. Cafes in the Antioch and Brentwood senior centers, managed separately but offering the same services. If you’re not a member of the senior center, you can still take advantage of this program. They just ask that you call 24 hours in advance so they’ll have ample food. Check what days the cafes are open in your area.

Along with delivering food, MOW drivers visit and serve as wellness checks for seniors who do not have many outside connections. The organization states that they also offer “an array of services and resources designed to reduce stress, increase mobility and improve quality of life.” 

There are family caregiver workshops as well as nutrition education and physical exercise sessions to help people enjoy their later years to the fullest.

Furthering MOW’s mission is their Friendly Visitors program. Too often I meet seniors who don’t have a lot of family nearby to check in and say hello. Loneliness can be a big issue, but Friendly Visitors are ready to address it. Trained and screened volunteers are matched with seniors to provide kindness and companionship to an otherwise isolated person. I have to say this is one of the best things one can do. One hour a week as a volunteer can not only improve the life of a senior, but yours as well.

Other valuable services include: confidential guidance on long-term care, tai chi classes, fall prevention, in-home modification and assessments, and elder-abuse support when needed. Most people prefer to stay in their homes whenever possible and Meals on Wheels care managers can offer assistance in choosing the right path for families and their loved ones, maximizing independence. 

In 1968, Meals on Wheels started delivering meals to shut-in seniors. Through the years it has become so much more. People helping people makes so much sense to me. Working off grants and donations, 90 percent of every dollar goes directly into the client programs. 

Recently, Meals on Wheels Diablo Region has expanded to include Knightsen, Byron, Oakley, Discovery Bay, Brentwood and Bethel Island — areas previously covered by a county-supported program. This means that everyone in our area can benefit from these programs, or volunteer to bring a smile to someone who would really appreciate it. We are all getting older. Someday we might rely on others for our daily needs, and MOW Diablo Region is a fabulous resource. Susannah sure made me smile when she told me there’s no age limit for volunteers. They had a 103-year-old who was their oldest Friendly Visitor and one of their best! 

If you are retired and looking for something rewarding to do for an hour a week, call Meals on Wheels Diablo Region at 925-937-8311 or visit www.mowdiabloregion.org. It will be the best call (or website visit) you ever make.

Marla Luckhardt is a Brentwood resident who works with senior care and advocacy groups. Email her at marla2054@aol.com.

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