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Every morning, John Gaul (90) wakes up in his one room apartment at the corner of Sacramento and Fillmore. He showers, brushes his teeth, combs his hair and dresses in his usual style: Navy blue suit and red and blue-dotted necktie with a long, golden watch nestled in his breast pocket. A matching bowler hat completes the look; he’s dressed to impress. With the aid of his walker, he slowly makes his way over to his seated perch at the window and scans the street 12 floors below.
And then he waits.
Around 10:15, the Meals On Wheels van pulls into the parking lot. Slowly, John stands up and makes his way out the front door and down the hall to the elevator, where he waits again. On cue, the elevator door opens and one of our drivers hands him two hot meals. After the smiles, handshakes and a bit of lively conversation, he goes back to his room and prepares to head out for the day.
Since he joined the Home Delivered Meals program in 2015, John looks forward to this routine each morning. He explains “When you’re 90, the physical life of youth ends, but there’s another way of life that doesn’t. These daily visits get me out of bed, showered and dressed…but I don’t want people to have to wait on me, I want to meet them halfway”.
John has lived in low-income housing for 30 years and like 60% of Meals On Wheels seniors, he lives alone. He makes the best of his situation, though. For decades, he’s been in high demand as a tour guide for bus-loads of visitors wanting to learn more about San Francisco’s landmarks; an activity that has kept his mind nimble and helped stem the tide of loneliness. In recent years, however, health issues forced him to spend more of his time in doctor’s offices and hospitals than out leading tours.
John was recently diagnosed as pre-diabetic, so his doctor signed him up for low-sodium meal deliveries. The positive impact of this dietary change has been substantial and visits to the doctor’s office have been cut in half. He was proud to report that, “Instead of every three weeks, I only have to go in for checkups every six weeks. The meals are, simply, nutritionally correct.”
Though life moves a bit slower these days, John’s outlook remains positive. When asked what advice he would give after reflecting on his long life, he said, “Whatever comes along in life, make it pleasant…not only for yourself, make it pleasant for other people.”