Health and Nutrition Services Available to Elder Residents

At the beginning of last month I wrote about an upcoming series of blog posts that will focus on the unique challenges facing our elder citizens. The goal of these posts will be to examine elder issues in depth, and to offer information about services available to elders that will help them thrive. In part one of the series I will discuss some of the complex health and nutrition-related issues that aging has created for many members of The Greatest Generation.
The right to choose where and how we live and the right to live with dignity are values that I believe our society should uphold and dearly respect. For all adults, young and old, the ability to be independent day-to-day can greatly influence quality of life. The ability for many elders to remain independent hinges heavily on their ability to stay healthy.

Staying healthy requires, first and foremost, access to quality, affordable healthcare. In some cases, the most appropriate health care services for elders are those that are performed in the home. Home Care allows many elders who have difficulty with mobility to remain in their homes while being provided with truly essential medical and social services. At present, The Executive Office of Elder Affairs has the ability to provide Home Care to 45,000 elders each month through 27 different Aging Services Access Points (ASAPs) located throughout the Commonwealth. ASAPs provide a wide variety of services to elders, ranging from medication-dispensing and grocery delivery to in-home healthcare and protective advocacy.
In the cities of Cambridge and Somerville, Home Care services are provided by Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services (SCES). Eligible elders (click here for eligibility information) can receive assistance with tasks such as bathing, dressing, housework, laundry, grocery shopping, medication reminders, meal preparation, or medical transportation. The services are state-subsidized, and co-pays are determined on a sliding scaled based on income.

These services are essential to improving and maintaining the quality of life of many elders and persons with disabilities. Unfortunately, whenever Massachusetts needs to tighten its purse-strings, these are the types of programs that tend to suffer, limiting the choices that our elders have, and in some cases, forcing them to move out of their homes and into long-term care facilities. Earlier this month, however, the federal government approved $450 million in state aid for Medicaid in Massachusetts, meaning that a large amount of funding for state health programs that was cut during this year’s budget process will be restored. 

Eating balanced, nutritious meals is essential to remaining healthy, and as a result, remaining independent. It may sound simple, but this is one of the toughest challenges facing elders, especially those with low incomes or limited access to transportation. Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services provides a number of services that help elders eat a healthy diet for a cost they can afford. For those who need meals delivered to their homes, a meals-on-wheels service is available that provides a hot lunch and a cold bag supper Monday through Saturday, as well as frozen meals for the weekends. SCES also operates Community Cafés which serve hot meals Monday through Friday at senior centers and senior/disabled housing in Cambridge and Somerville. These programs are available for a small suggested donation to those eligible and for a fee for all others. To learn about who is eligible, visit the SCES web page by clicking here or call 617-628-2601 for more information.

For those who are able to prepare their own meals but may have trouble acquiring the ingredients necessary for a healthy, balanced diet, SCES and the Greater Boston Food Bank operate a “brown bag program” which provides eligible residents with a 10-15 pound bag of healthy groceries. The bags typically contain things such as milk, cheese, pasta, rice, ground beef, tuna, green beans, peanut butter, and oatmeal. The program is open to residents of Somerville and Cambridge who meet certain age, disability, and income requirements. For more information on the program’s eligibility requirements and how to register, click here.

SCES also offers nutritional counseling at local senior centers, and private counseling is available for SCES clients. For those who have difficulty meeting their nutritional needs through solid food, SCES offers nutritional “boost shakes” at their office, or for delivery to SCES clients. EBT (food stamp) cards are accepted as payments.

For more information about these services, you can call Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services at 617-628-2601, or visit their website at You can also request information in person by visiting their offices at 61 Medford St. in Somerville.

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