Meals on Wheels No More

The New York Times had a really good (yet upsetting) piece this weekend on the severe effects that the rising gas prices are beginning to have on older folks:
“Faced with soaring gasoline prices, agencies around the country that provide services to the elderly say they are having to cut back on programs like Meals on Wheels, transportation assistance and home care, especially in rural areas that depend on volunteers who provide their own gas. In a recent survey by the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, more than half said they had already cut back on programs because of gas costs, and 90 percent said they expected to make cuts in the 2009 fiscal year.”
Without Meals on Wheels, they would need transportation or home care. Without transportation, they need home care or Meals on Wheels. So without any of the three, where exactly does that leave them? And it doesn’t end there – not only are these necessary programs being cut, but it’s getting more and more difficult to get volunteers, who are increasingly harder to recruit as they cut back on their miles.
The article touches on a couple of personal stories from citizens of Michigan that really hits home; we can talk prices and numbers all we want, but humanizing the problem and seeing how this is affecting real Americans is what will resonate with people.
One ray of hope is that the agencies are currently urging Congress to account for fuel inflation in reimbursement rates and reinstate special increases for providers in rural areas – a program that actually expired in 2006. It looks like we need it now more than ever.