Wednesday, May 1, 2013

On the bright side, all those elderly shut-ins won't have to worry about having their flights delayed

I won't belabor the point right now but one of the recurring underlying themes in the posts from both authors of this blog is the increasing difficulty with which information passes up the economic ladder and the extraordinary disconnect in perceptions that difficulty has caused.

This is not just a case of not knowing how the other half lives; it's not knowing how the other deciles live (or at least, how the deciles below you live). Thus a problem involving products and services used disproportionately by the upper and upper-middle class is given a high level of coverage and is addressed almost immediately while on the other end of the economic spectrum, important (sometimes vital) products and services are curtailed or even eliminated with little reaction from those unaffected.

Arthur Delaney writing for the Huffington Post:
Now McCormick is 70 years old and living alone in a one-bedroom apartment in a six-story building. Only about 40 of the building's 144 units are occupied. The parking lots are barren and the hallways are dingy with torn carpets. McCormick considers the building "spooky."

He's lived here since 2005, and for most of that time he has benefited from food charity every week day ... brought to him by Meals On Wheels volunteers. Since 1972 the Administration on Aging has provided federal funding for senior nutrition, and today volunteers from some 5,000 Meals On Wheels affiliates across the country distribute a million meals a day.

But federal funding for senior nutrition has been reduced by budget cuts known as sequestration, meaning less food for old people here and elsewhere. The White House has said the cuts would mean 4 million fewer meals for seniors this year, while the Meals On Wheels Association of America put the loss at 19 million meals. In general, the federal government subsidizes only a portion of the cost of every meal, so whether individual seniors will stop receiving food really depends on the circumstances of whatever local agency serves them.

Michele Daley, director of nutrition services at the Local Office on Aging, which serves Roanoke, Alleghany, Botetourt and Craig counties in Virginia, said the agency expects to receive $95,000 less in federal funds this year (it has an operating budget of $1 million). They're gradually reducing the number of people receiving daily meals from 650 to 600 as a result of the budget cuts. Already, the office has planned to stop handing out most emergency meals -- bags of shelf-stable items like canned beans distributed in advance of snowstorms and holidays. And they've instituted a waiting list.

"We've never had a waiting list," Daley said. "This is the first time ever and it's a direct result of sequestration."

After he learned about the cuts on the news, McCormick thought long and hard about whether he really needed the meals. He's got no car, and can't walk long distances, but sometimes he can get a ride to the grocery store and the food pantry, and he's got a small stockpile of canned goods sitting on a wooden desk in his living room.

"I've run into people who've been a whole lot worse off than I was," he said.
Many seniors would prefer to live independently in an apartment than dwindle away in a nursing home, and that's partly the point of bringing them food at home. It's also fiscally prudent: A Brown University study found the more states spend on meals, which are not expensive, the less they spend housing seniors in nursing homes, which costs much more.
Field did not drive to William McCormick's lonely apartment tower, and neither did any of Roanoke's other Meals On Wheels volunteers, at least not to visit McCormick. Last month, after taking stock of his own access to food and considering people less fortunate, he decided to drop out of the program.

"I thought about it for two or three days and I said, 'Right now my health's pretty good,' and so I just gave it up," he said. "I just couldn't bear the thought of me having something to eat and maybe somebody else needing it and they couldn't apply for it so I just voluntarily gave it up."

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