By Sabina Mollot
It was 35 years ago when Gael Greene, a food critic, read in the New York Times that many seniors would be going without meals on Thanksgiving weekend. Greene immediately called chef and cookbook author James Beard, who, along with the city’s Department of the Aging, worked together to raise enough money to get 6,000 meals delivered to the homes of the elderly in time for Christmas. The project, Citymeals-on-Wheels, didn’t end there, though. It continued to ensure that New York’s senior citizens wouldn’t have to go without meals on weekends or holidays when senior centers are closed. Demand for the service has only increased since then, with 18,000 homebound elderly currently benefitting from the program each year.
Seventy of those individuals live in Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village, an increase from 2014 when there were 47.
To qualify for the home deliveries, seniors can’t be physically able to shop or cook for themselves. For that reason, the organization has also become a lifeline for isolated individuals.
More than 60 percent of Citymeals recipients are over 80 years old; 23 percent are over 90; more than 200 have lived at least a century. All recipients are chronically disabled by conditions such as vision loss, diabetes, arthritis and heart disease. Nearly all need assistance walking. It is estimated that 66 percent use a cane, 39 percent use a walker and 16 percent use a wheelchair.