Data reveals how nutrition programs support Aging in Place

Meghan Ostrander is Director of Nutrition at Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services

Elder services is about providing supports that help people maintain health and independence. The assistance Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services (SCES) provides is often life changing, and we had a vivid reminder of that through a recent survey that illustrates how nutrition programs support Aging in Place.

Perhaps the most compelling statistic: fully 90 percent of respondents said that Meals on Wheels helps them live independently. That’s quite a number, when you consider we delivered more than 235,000 meals last year. In many cases, we are serving isolated older adults who cannot prepare their own meals, and those who might otherwise go hungry for financial reasons. The common thread is improving nutrition, while reducing hunger and isolation.

Patrons of congregate meals program also participated in the survey  and reported similar impacts from more than 60,000 meals we served at 10 local congregate meal sites over the past year.

Nathan Lamb is Director of Outreach and Community relations at SCES

All told, we provided meals for more than 1,000 local older adults and people under 60 with disabilities.  I want to thank the more than 200 participants who responded to the survey, to help us assess the quality and impact of our services. The responses shed some light on several meaningful topics:

Supporting Health 84% of Meals on Wheels recipients felt the program improved their health, with more than three-quarters of participants saying it also helps them maintain a health condition, feel better, meet weight goals, and eat healthier foods.  Among congregate meals patrons, 74% said it improved their health.

Reducing isolation Half of the Meals on Wheels recipients live alone, with no one to check on them but their drivers.  Some 73% of home delivered meals recipients said they feel less lonely because of their driver—and 97% of home delivered meal recipient rated their interaction with nutrition program staff as excellent or good. Some 97% of congregate meals patrons said they feel less lonely from visiting our meal site.

Research published by the National Institute on Aging in 2019 linked loneliness and isolation to a variety of negative health impacts, including high blood pressure, heart disease, depression, and cognitive decline. The socialization piece is very important, and it is gratifying to hear that we are making an impact there.

Avoiding malnutrition Some 48% of home delivered meals recipients reported they would have a shortage of food without the program. And 77% of homebound recipients said the home delivered meal was their main meal of the day, with more than half of congregate meals sites reporting the same.

We also received positive feedback on the food, with nearly 80% saying the meals are excellent or good and 86% saying they would recommend the meals to a friend.

The Meals on Wheels and Congregate Dining Site programs are open to residents of Cambridge and Somerville who are age 60 or over. Meals on Wheels is also available for client spouses or dependents with disabilities who may be under 60. There is no charge, but we do request a voluntary donation to help support the program.

Malnutrition is a common problem for older adults. To help reverse that trend, we also offer nutrition counseling, low cost nutrition supplements and a monthly grocery supplement for eligible households.

There are many ways SCES nutrition programs support healthy Aging in Place. Please feel free to get in touch if you think we can help.

Meghan Ostrander is Director of Nutrition at Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services (SCES). Nathan Lamb is Director of Outreach and Community relations at SCES.  For more information about SCES nutrition programs, contact our Aging Information Center by calling 617-628-2601. Or visit our website,