During the recent MOWSF kitchen groundbreaking ceremony, Carolyn, a MOWSF recipient, smiled as she admired SF Mayor London Breed’s beautiful, Mediterranean blue suit.
“Did you see the old soap opera, Dynasty?” she asked me. “Remember when Joan Collins would walk into court wearing these incredible suits? We would talk about her outfit for days while at work. It’s the only reason I even watched the show – to see what she was going to wear!” explained Carolyn.
Carolyn is 74 years old and has been receiving home-delivered meals from MOWSF since 2009. During that year, she was hospitalized and her nurse recommended she apply for our home-delivered meals program in order to stabilize her diet and improve her health. Soon after, she began receiving meals from MOWSF daily.
After the ground breaking event, she told her MOWSF social worker, Kristi, that she had never seen any event like this before and was so happy to be a part of history, particularly with an organization that she has grown to know for a decade now.
When I visit her a week after the groundbreaking event, she is dressed comfortably in a pale yellow short-sleeved t-shirt paired with the bottom half of hospital scrubs. She receives dialysis treatments on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoons which wear her our out and cause her not to be as hungry. She’s decreased her meal requests through our program to two days a week for now. Despite the dialysis and keeping track of an array of medications which are lined up on a round table next to her chair, she’s in good spirits and grins widely as I hand her a framed picture of her with Mayor Breed. This, she says, is something she’ll treasure forever.
The ground breaking ceremony was the highlight of the week for her. Carolyn, like so many seniors we serve, lives alone and cannot always get out to enjoy activities many of us take for granted such as shopping, going to a friend's home, or taking a stroll around the block. She has no family to turn to; her parents passed away and she has not seen or been in communication with her only son for a number of years.
“I’m an only child and I had lots of aunts and uncles but they’re all gone now in heaven,” Carolyn tells me.
According to the most recent data by Meals on Wheels America, of the estimated 58 million older adults age 60 or older living in the U.S., 1 in 4 live alone. Even more startling: 1 in 5 feels lonely. The negative effects of loneliness on health are similar to smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day!
Carolyn says that she’s always been somewhat of a loner from her early days in high school through adulthood. She did have a tight group of friends as an adult, but that network slowly faded away as people moved, and life's demands of raising and providing for a child became the number one priority. These days she enjoys relaxing in her easy-chair watching the Price is Right game show and in the evenings, viewing VHS tapes of some of her favorite movies. There are many famous titles on her book shelf including the Friday the 13th and Jaws series which she says, with a gleam in her eyes, are her favorites. She does not have many visitors but says she enjoys when Meals on Wheels checks in on her because it motivates her to get ready in the morning and the process of getting ready and dressed has become a part of her routine that keeps her active and alert.
As I say goodbye, Carolyn models a Meals on Wheels construction hat -- a souvenir she received from the ground breaking event that brings a smile to her face and will, along with the framed picture, always remind her of the day she met the Mayor of San Francisco.
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Read the Boston Globe article: ‘Disconnected from other folks,’ seniors grapple with a loneliness epidemic