Local nonprofit feeling effects of aging baby boomers

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) — Meals on Wheels of Charlottesville/Albemarle is a meal delivery service for a specific group of people.

“We’re looking for people who are homebound that can’t cook for themselves because they have a mental or physical disability, and a lot of it is age,” Executive Director Leigh Trippe said.

Every week, volunteers drive fresh, nutritious meals to clients that the organization serves.

“It’s an hour, hour and a half a week to do some good,” said David Sloan, one of the volunteers.

Many of the clients are also below the poverty line, but Trippe said the service is more than just giving a meal.

“The other part of that is that they actually get to see a human being once a day, and sometimes I think that might be even more important than the meal,” said Trippe.

Sloan agrees that the clients greatly appreciate the service given to them.

“It’s kind of a family. They get to know you, you get to know them. People are looking out after them. They might not have that in their lives, it may just be them and it means so much to have somebody that cares,” said Sloan.

Trippe calls the population “invisible.”

“They’re homebound, so you don’t see them outside. They’re not on the streets, they’re not asking for money, they’re not asking for help, they’re not advocating for senior hunger,” said Trippe.

This population is growing quickly. For the first time ever, Meals on Wheels had to introduce a waitlist because of the number of older homebound adults in the area. Trippe said the client base grew 60 percent in the last 10 years.

“We want to get rid of our waiting list. We’ve never had one before and we had to start one last year because our growth was so big,” said Trippe.

University of Virginia Hospital Geriatrician Justin Mutter said the number of older people is growing because of one specific generation.

“It’s increasing so fast because the baby boomer population is aging,” said Mutter.

However, he also said there is a common misconception about this group of people.

“It’s not just 65 and older. The fastest growing segment of that population is 75 and older,” said Mutter.

Mutter said this upward trend will not slow down any time soon.

“Given the aging of the population, that is only going to continue to increase in the coming years and decades and we have a lot of work to do to serve those individuals well,” Mutter said.

He said the most important thing at this point is to let people know about the available resources, including Meals on Wheels.

However, Trippe said Meals on Wheels does not receive any government funding and relies completely on fundraising and individual donations.

She said without more funding, they will need to continue the waitlist in order to keep up with the client demand.

“On my fiscal side, I know that’s the right thing for the organization. We have to do it. But when you get a phone call from a 93-year-old man, sobbing, saying, ‘what am I going to do?’ It breaks your heart,” said Trippe.

If you are interested in learning more about Meals on Wheels of Charlottesville/Albemarle, click on the link in the Related Links box.

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