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Ypsilanti Meals On Wheels To Help Senior Citizens Stay In Their Homes For Longer

Ypsilanti’s Meals on Wheels is known for keeping people in need from going hungry, especially senior citizens.  But thanks to a grant supported by theGlacier HillsLegacy Fund, the Washtenaw County organization will expand its services.  89.1 WEMU’s Jorge Avellan has the story.

"I’ll tell you, people live a lot longer when they’re in their own home."

Standing in the living room of her one-bedroom Ypsilanti home, 83 year-old Marilyn France says she wants to live to be over 100 years old.  She’s had two strokes this year, walks with a cane, and is unable to climb stairs.  But despite her limitations, she doesn’t want to move to an assisted living care facility.  That’s where a program called “Community Aging in Place Advancing Better Living for Elders,” or CAPABLE comes in.

"The goal is to make modifications in the home to make the home more livable, so they can stay there longer."

That’s Alison Foreman.  She’s the executive director for Ypsilanti’s Meals on Wheels.  The group was awarded $500,000 through the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundationto roll out the CAPABLE program in Ypsilanti.  Foreman says it will benefit 100 out of the 400 seniors they serve a year.

"We are going to have to add staff, we’re going to be adding a nurse, an occupational therapist, and another social worker, so right there goes a big chunk of money. We will do five-month interventions for the clients, so they will have access to those three clinical specialists, along with a handy person, who is a certified aging in place specialist."

Before receiving the funding to launch the CAPABLE program next year, Ypsilanti’s Meals on Wheels conducted a home improvement pilot program.  France, who’s been living at her home for the last 56 years, was selected to participate. 

"They put two new back doors on my house, put locks, put real good locks on them, and they fixed my front door with a good lock so the air can’t come in."

France also received a new vanity for her bathroom and is working with a financial counselor to help her with her property taxes and to lower her Medicaid/Medicare out-of-pocket expenses.  As part of the program, France also receives food for her two small dogs, Trixie and Lacey.  Her gratitude to Meals on Wheels is very clear when you speak to her.

"They help seniors 100%. Nobody could say anything about seniors, if they say something about seniors to me. Not doing this, not doing that, and you don’t need it, I’ll tell them a few words about it because they help with everything."

Ypsilanti’s Meals on Wheels executive director Alison Foreman says Washtenaw County is among the many places around the country that continues to see an increase in the senior citizen population.  The U.S. Census estimates that 13% of the population in the county are senior citizens.

"SEMCOG releases statistics on that. In fact, we are a very old county. By 2020, one in four of us will be over the age of 60. So right now, one in five people are senior age. So it’s going to drastically increase. And by 2060, it will be half of us."

Low-income seniors with at least two health challenges qualify for the CAPABLE program.  Ypsilanti’s Meals on Wheels communication coordinator Sandy Bosch says their staff will help identify some of them.  

"Every meal delivery doubles as a safe check, well-being check for the person who is receiving the meals. All of our client care associates, which is what we call our delivery drivers are trained to look for problems, look for things that we might be able to do to help that person stay safe and in their own home."

Back at her home, Marilyn France says, for her, it would also be difficult to part from her two dogs.

"My animals are like my kids. I treat them with respect, the same I would my kids."

Meals on Wheels hopes to keep funding the program in the future through federal aid, grants, and even through Medicaid services.  They also hope to expand to the rest of Washtenaw County.  Habitat for Humanity of Huron Valley is also providing support through home repairs and financial counseling. 

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— Jorge Avellan is a reporter for 89.1 WEMU News. Contact him at 734.487.3363 or email him javellan@emich.edu

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