Wednesday, April 27, 2011

SCS Kicks Off Older Americans Month with SWEEP! Day

Mrs. Young has lived in Atlanta her entire life, but recently has found it difficult to maintain her Vine City home. Because of family medical issues and her advancing age, she is not able to maintain her yard and do the exterior painting that she would like to do.

Mrs. Young is one of ten older home owners who will receive needed home repairs on Saturday, May 7th. Senior Citizen Services will hold its annual SWEEP! Day for their HOMES Program (Home Owner Maintenance and Enhancement for Seniors). The event will take place from 8:00 am to 2:00 pm based at the Fulton County New Horizons Neighborhood Senior Center. SWEEP! is a focused, high-impact event celebrating Older Americans Month. On the morning of May 7th, a volunteer team will “sweep” through each sponsored home and perform improvements inside and out. Improvements will include painting (inside and out), yard maintenance, gutter cleaning, and minor carpentry. SWEEP! will target ten homes in this event and will host an after-party for volunteers, homeowners, their guests, and donors.

“I like the outside of my home to look nice. But after retiring from Sears in 2006, I don’t have the money it takes,” stated Mrs. Young.

The HOMES Program provides minor home repairs, enhancements, and yard work to senior homeowners (age 60 an older) living in metro Atlanta. The HOMES program completes nearly 500 homes each year and is supported by The Fulton County Board of Commissioners/ Fulton County Human Services Grants program, The Home Depot Foundation, Thanks Mom and Dad Fund, and other individuals and foundations.

For more information or to register to volunteer, please visit or call 404-351-3889.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Is America Failing Our Nation's Seniors?

In 2008, the Meals On Wheels Association of America released the results of a groundbreaking research report entitled "The Causes, Consequences and Future of Senior Hunger in America" that our Foundation had commissioned. The findings of the co-principal investigators, Dr. James Ziliak of the University of Kentucky and Dr. Craig Gundersen then of the University of Iowa, were shocking and unacceptable. In 2001, the research showed, five million seniors in the United States, or one in nine, were facing the threat of hunger. The next year, we asked the same researcher examine several more years of date and update the report. By 2007, the number of seniors facing the threat of hunger was six million. Any reader who can do the math knows that is a 20 percent increase in just six years. But without context, the average reader might not be able to grasp the magnitude of the number. Let me give some context. There are 33 states in this country that each have total state populations of less than 6 million.

Is America failing our nation's seniors? And if we are moving in the clearly wrong direction where senior hunger is concerned today, what of the future?

The baby boomers (and I am one of them) are now entering the ranks of older persons, and it is safe to assume that we will be a demanding lot, constantly in search of more and different kinds of services. We will not likely want to live in assisted living or the even less desirous nursing home environment as generations before us have. Rather, we will want to live independently in community settings. Yet that raises a critical question: Can community-based organizations and the concomitant services needed keep up with the demand? Or will America, having failed to turn the tide on senior hunger with the current generation continue down the path of failure with the next-- and much larger-- generation of our nation's seniors?

It is easy to focus on the short term view of the past, the last couple of decades that have seen a faltering economy that went from great highs to unparalleled, sustained lows and a burgeoning population of older adults, and to lay the blame here. But we have seen depression in the place of deep recession in the more distant past. And we have seen population surges like that of the last century, not driven by birth rates, but by immigrants who came to these shores seeking a better life. Many of those numbers of older persons, like my own grandparents who came into his vast, wonderful land of ours, this great melting pot, seeking the American dream. Even with its own troubles, America did not fail them.

But it is different for millions of older Americans today. At least 6 million in 2007; and while we do not have more current research to account for the impact of the economy of the past several years on seniors, one researcher has suggested that the real number of those facing hunger's real, ominous and daily threat might be 30 percent higher.

All the while, when the national attention, or should I say national debate, turns to seniors and senior issues, the discussion seems confined primarily to Social Security and Medicare - "their programs," those entitlements to which individuals who have paid into the system look for help to sustain them in their elder years. They regard their payments to the trust funds as investments, and they expect to reap some advantages from those investments. Fair enough. But because these programs are entitlements -- which means both that they guarantee some benefit and that they are costly to the budget to maintain (particularly as there are fewer and fewer young people paying into the system than in years past) -- they have become the rallying cry for those who say "look at what we do for seniors. What more do they want?"

Well, sometimes it's not about what they want, but what they need. Feeding the hungry is not a response to an optional want. It's a moral obligation... and food is certainly something to which every man, woman and child is entitled. Plainly put, it's not good enough any longer for Meals On Wheels to be viewed as a feel-good, do-good social service program. Surely local Meals On Wheels programs are that, and they are integral parts of the fabric of every community. That is why the data show us that 99 percent of the American public views these programs positively. But that's not enough. Our elected officials love these programs, and we are grateful for that. At least once a year they are pleased to do a photo-op delivering a meal. But is once a year enough?
When budget issues arise in Congress and the two parties are duking it out on the floor of the Congress, Meals On Wheels generally comes up. But is it good enough to use the story of cutting off meals to seniors and then fail to make adequate funds available to meet the need, so that in the end, after the partisan sparring is over, Meals On Wheels programs in fact have to reduce the number of meals or the number of seniors they serve?

So, I ask the question again. Is America failing our nation's seniors? And, what do we do about it? We, at Meals On Wheels programs throughout the United States, continue to deliver the best services and meals that we can. We are asked to perform two separate tasks. First is simply to feed those seniors who would otherwise go hungry. Second -- and this sets Meals On Wheels and our services apart -- is to ensure that those being fed receive food that is nutritious; that meets government guidelines for nutritional composition; that is maintained at proper temperatures, even if they are being transported forty or more miles along with other meal deliveries being made to other seniors waiting for their food; that is medically, ethnically, and religiously appropriate; and that tastes good too.

Is America failing our nation's seniors? The statistics would say the answer is yes. But are we failing our nation's seniors? No. We are Meals On Wheels, and Meals On Wheels programs are not failing our nation's seniors. Our programs are a lifeline and an anchor for the hundreds of thousands of seniors who need a helping hand. Yes, we can and we will end senior hunger and provide nutritious meals at the same time. We have the courage of our convictions and we will stand up against those who would seek to shut us out and shut us down. There simply is no other option.

Stand with us. In this the richest nation on Earth no one should go hungry. We must not fail our nation's seniors. Stand with us in this fight.

-- by Enid Borden, President and CEO of the Meals On Wheels Association of America

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Food for Thought

According to the Atlanta Regional Commission (2011), access to fresh food decreases with income. This means that our lower-income neighborhoods have less access to the healthier foods needed to successfully age-in-place. Access to fast food was much greater than access to fresh food for both low and very low income subpopulations.

What does this mean for Senior Citizen Services? Our meals and wellness initiatives will continue to be vital for seniors who have low or very low incomes. Under the leadership of our Director of Operations Jerrell Saddler and Meals On Wheels Atlanta Manager Jamell Hamm, our pantry program “Mobile Meals Pantry” is supplementing canned goods with fresh fruits and vegetables. That means that the seniors who benefit from our pantry collaboration with Visiting Nurse Health System, Open Hand and The Atlanta Community Food Bank are now receiving fresh fruit and vegetables as well!

This also means that further brainstorming and partnering will be needed going forward to ensure that our nutrition via Meals On Wheels Atlanta gets to the right seniors when they really need it.

More than “being there” for our seniors, I believe that our education approach via our Neighborhood Senior Centers will be more and more critical as well. Rather than forcing education on our seniors, we utilize proven tools like Stanford’s Chronic Disease Self Management classes and Arthritis Self Management Classes. We also connect amazing providers like our fitness instructor with our seniors—this was our top ranked program of any senior center programs per our last survey.

I am more confident than ever that SCS can make a difference for lower-income seniors who do not have enough access they need to age-in-place successfully. I am also confident that SCS can convene other partners within the transportation arena to enable better access as well.

-- by Jeff Smythe, Executive Director

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Senior Citizen Services Announces Older Americans Month Activities

Each May, Senior Citizen Services of Metropolitan Atlanta participates in Older Americans Month as part of the annual nationwide celebration that commemorates the signing of the Older Americans Act. Older Americans Month is an occasion to show appreciation and support for our seniors as they continue to enrich and strengthen our communities. This year’s national theme -- Older Americans: Connecting the Community -- pays homage to the many ways in which older adults bring inspiration and continuity to the fabric of our communities, and highlights how technology is helping older Americans live longer, healthier, and more engaged lives. Thursday, May 5, 10 am—4 pm Neighborhood Senior Centers Open House Fulton County/SCS Senior Centers will be open for seniors to drop by and tour each center. Food and drinks, games, Wii, music, aerobics/exercise, arts & crafts, and much more will be offered. Saturday, May 7, 8:00 am SWEEP! Day—New Horizons Neighborhood Senior Center SWEEP! is a focused, high-impact event where hundreds of volunteers perform home maintenance and enhancement projects for seniors. Get out your paint brush and yard gloves for a special day of service in Atlanta! Thursday, May 12, 10 am—4 pm SPARC Health Fair—Senior Citizen Services Health screenings, referrals, memory screenings, dental exams, blood pressure checks, etc. Tuesday, May 17, 10 am—2 pm Senior Talent Show—Senior Citizen Services Seniors from the Neighborhood Senior Centers will sing, dance, perform dramatic readings, etc. Thursday, May 19, 10 am—2 pm Taste of SCS—Senior Citizen Services Seniors from the Neighborhood Senior Centers will cook up their best dish to share with friends. Saturday, May 21, 8:15 am geneRACEtion 10K and 2K Fun Run— Grant Park Proceeds raised from geneRACEtion will benefit two worthy organizations: Kate’s Club, a non-profit organization that empowers children and teens facing life after the death of a parent or sibling ( and Senior Citizen Services of Metropolitan Atlanta, Inc., a nonprofit, community-based organization, has been providing services since 1965 ( Register to participate at! Wednesday, June 8, 12 noon Open House and Annual Meeting—Senior Citizen Services Senior Citizen Services will open its doors to community and corporate partners to celebrate 46 years of continuous service for older adults in Atlanta.