Giving Hope to Seniors in Rural Missouri
For seniors in rural Missouri, greater travel distances make rituals we take for granted, like trips to the grocery store or dinner with friends, a challenge. But the Area Agency on Aging (AAA) Region X is making sure seniors in one of Missouri’s most rural areas maintain the healthy and joyful quality of life they’ve earned.
Operating in four counties, AAA Region X oversees programs and services at Senior Centers that help seniors maintain independent and dignified lives. McDonald County is a particular area of focus, where sparse resources and mobility issues make it difficult for older adults to find transportation, or sometimes even leave their homes. To tackle malnutrition risks in homebound seniors, AAA Region X operates the Meals on Wheels program from the McDonald County Senior Center in Noel. Meals on Wheels ensures qualifying seniors receive seven frozen meals delivered directly to their residence each week, before the situation becomes dire.
“We’ve had hospitals and social workers call and refer seniors to us, and there’s just nothing in their pantry,” says Shonna Shorter-Kramer, Nutrition Program Coordinator for AAA Region X. “So we get meals there as fast as we can.”
Seniors facing hunger and isolation are more likely to suffer from chronic health conditions and depression. That’s why it’s crucial for qualifying seniors to have access to home-delivered meals.
It’s also why the McDonald County Senior Center is bustling with events to combat loneliness. Five days a week, local seniors can come to the Senior Center for a hot meal shared with peers, or join in activities hosted at the Center. “There’s all kinds of activities going on always,” says Shonna, “They play pool, BINGO, line dancing, trivia, puzzles. They have favorite meals – taco salad is a favorite at every center – but socialization is the main reason for coming.”
To make the Center more approachable and accessible, Shonna has been incorporating more culturally sensitive meals, which she hopes will encourage neighbors of all backgrounds to come keep their hearts and stomachs full.
Lately, Shonna has been focusing on protein for seniors, explaining that older adults aren’t getting enough of this important nutrient in their diets. Higher grocery store prices mean seniors on fixed incomes often choose to skip buying meat and need more help with food. That’s where Ozarks Food Harvest’s partnership fills in the gaps. With supplemental food from Ozarks Food Harvest, AAA Region X can deliver extra groceries for those homebound seniors whose pantries are sparse, or they can incorporate more protein into holiday meals at the Senior Center.
“Seniors are excited to get meat because they haven’t had it outside of the meals they’re given,” Shonna explains, “Without Ozarks Food Harvest, we couldn’t get people fed. You’re helping to fill empty pantries.”
Ozarks Food Harvest is proud to partner with organizations like AAA Region X. With their support, older adults can access resources that help them thrive. Thank you, AAA Region X, for Transforming Hunger into Hope for seniors in McDonald County. For more information on how AAA Region X serves communities in southwest Missouri, visit their website at aaaregionx.org.