“I Wish I Were…”

Jan 5, 2023

We Americans, and probably millions of folks across the continents, routinely and ritually begin a new year by declaring the intention to make some desired changes/improvements in our lives. Yes, we participate in the centuries old practice of making New Year’s Resolutions. The truth is that for most of us those “resolutions” are more like wishes that rarely come to full fruition than they are long term commitments to permanent changes in behavior or attitude.  “I will…I wish I could … I wish I were” we declare to ourselves and, sometimes, out loud to close friends and family. For many Americans of a certain age the words “I wish I were” do more than define good intentions. They tend to conjure up old memories and old lyrics. It’s likely that for many folks, particularly Baby Boomers, top among them is a well-loved Simon and Garfunkel song, the chorus of which declares “I wish I were homeward bound.” Surely that very sentiment must have been shared recently by thousands, perhaps millions, of travelers stuck in airports during the holidays due to flight delays and cancellations brought on by dangerous weather conditions across the country. Those of us who were fortunate enough to be sitting cozily in front of our televisions witnessing it all certainly sympathized with our fellow citizens but could not fully appreciate either the frustration they were undergoing as they waited, nor the joy they experienced once they were finally homeward bound. Being homeward bound at last was a good thing for those stranded millions. But what about being homebound? Yes, homebound. Because of the weather millions of other Americans were confined to their homes, and for the majority of them it was a temporary situation. It also made popular news stories that allowed those of us who were fortunate enough to live in more temperate climates to see and sympathize with others who were struggling to dig out of massive snow drifts. All of that was news. What was neither news, nor new, nor rarely mentioned — if at all — were the hundreds of thousands of Americans, most of whom are elderly, who are, for lack of a better description, “chronically homebound.” The truth is there are millions of them spread around every state and almost every community in this great nation. Many of them — but not all — are fortunate enough to live in communities where they are cared for. And we are not referring to residential facilities like nursing homes. We are talking about vibrant and diverse communities, whose citizenry is comprised of infants and centenarians and all the ages in between, where local senior nutrition providers operate both congregate meal programs in group settings and home delivered meal programs for those elders confined to their residences. The paralyzing blizzards that closed airports and made roads impassable in large swaths of the country left individuals who rely on the later, well, both housebound and vulnerable and, for some, dependent on what little food they had saved or stored away. Fortunately, that crisis has passed now, at least for the moment. But the truth that it underscores remains; and it deserves our attention and recognition. What recognition?  Not of a problem (although that does deserve attention), but of the importance and dedication of those home delivered meal programs and the individuals who devote their time, energy and professional expertise in ensuring that elders in their community receive the nutrition that is so critical to their physical and emotional well-being. We have all heard the media talk about “essential services” during a weather crisis and other widespread emergencies. When they do, they generally mean police and firefighters and medical personnel, as well they should. For our part we want to say that senior nutrition providers need to be added to that list. After all, having daily access to healthy food is about as essential as anything can be.

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