Prior to receiving Meals on Wheels, Bruce received monthly food boxes — not nearly enough to keep him healthy after being hospitalized with pneumonia.
Bruce needs his elevator and heat to work.
The 82-year-old Meals on Wheels client lives on the top floor of a three-story Single-Room Occupancy building in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood. On the day we talked on the phone, Bruce was a little preoccupied. Maintenance people were out trying to repair a broken heater affecting the entire building including his small apartment. The elevator, which he says has been broken since sometime in August, hasn’t been fixed despite numerous pleas to building management. Bruce says he even wrote a letter to his elected district supervisor, Matt Haney, apprising him of the situation.
If that wasn’t enough, Bruce tells me that pest control was out the previous week to deal with cockroaches in the building. He’s proud of his apartment and enjoys keeping it clean and tidy, but despite that, he says the roaches still make their way inside.
Despite everything going on, Bruce speaks as if he’s got a smile in his eyes – you can hear it in his voice — strong and optimistic. He says he’s happy to chat with me – I’m a welcome distraction if only for a short time.
Bruce is a Michigan native and musician by trade. He moved to San Francisco in 1971 and landed a gig with a small band called the Now Company Singers where he played piano. It didn’t pay much, but it was just enough to pay the bills back then. I asked him about his favorite memories living in the City over multiple decades.
“Good memories and bad memories are our choice,” says Bruce. “I try to stay away from the bad ones.”
His fondest memory of San Francisco includes the time he played for the band in 1976. They would play conventions and nightclubs gigs and that year the band performed at the Ferry Building. Bruce recounts.
“I played a piano, which was a wonderful Yamaha grand, and it was in front of this window where I could look up at the Bay Bridge. I could see partly underneath and partly above the bridge. It was beautiful – a view you don’t get often when you’re out and about.”
Bruce says if he could play again, he’d love to play for a church because he loves the old-time hymnals.
In 2011, Bruce, who has Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), was hospitalized with pneumonia. Prior to his hospitalization, he relied on monthly food boxes provided to him and other tenants by the building, as well as a few meals his caregiver could shop for and prepare for him a few days a week. It was the bare minimum and certainly not enough to keep him healthy in the long term.
When he recovered and was ready to return home, he was connected to Meals on Wheels which, to this day, continues to help him maintain a consistent diet with daily entrees delivered daily to his home, along with nutrition counseling (read about our Nutrition Team) and a social work team that helps him stay connected to services such as paratransit which he uses frequently to go to medical appointments.
As I listen to Bruce talk about his experience with Meals on Wheels – particularly the food, I get a sense that he really enjoys the program.
“Everything you do with ground beef is excellent!
Bruce loves to add his favorite barbecue sauce – Sweet Baby Ray’s on some of the dishes to give them an extra zing.
“I like the balance you get with the meals and I like all of those heartwarming soups that give you a sense of well-being.”
Like many seniors, Bruce takes extra safety precautions against COVID-19, screening people before he lets them enter into his apartment, and wearing masks and gloves when he goes outside for appointments. He’s awaiting word on when he can go get his booster shot as it’s been more than 6 months since his second vaccination.
Despite the isolation many people have and continue to feel as a result of the pandemic, Bruce says he doesn’t feel alone or isolated. He does know a few of his neighbors and they keep in touch regularly — sort of a team that looks out for one another.
He has felt a bit trapped in the building given the broken elevator and his fear of falling down the steps and hurting himself. His three-year-old cat named Little Girl, a rescue from a neighbor down the hall keeps him company and balanced through it all.
Did You Know?
- In 2020, Meals on Wheels San Francisco prepared and delivered 2.4 million meals to more than 5,000 older San Franciscans in need.
- Meals on Wheels entrees are made with both taste and high nutritional value in mind
- Meals on Wheels San Francisco Menu