“I worked as a plumber for over fifty-five years to provide for my family; back then, times were easier. My wife and I, we could raise our three kids on one salary. We didn’t have everything, but we had what we needed…” Donald is a proud man; he’s lived in the Miami Valley all his life. Now at 76, his body worn down from years of hard work, his bones ache and he admits—with a laugh—that he doesn’t get around as easily as he once did. Oh, but don’t let him fool you! As we were spending the afternoon at the senior living facility Donald now lives at, he volunteered more than once to help fix a leaking pipe in his neighbor’s small kitchenette.
Donald is much like many other seniors in our community, they’ve worked hard all their lives, saved their money, raised their kids right. But today many seniors are facing tough decisions; living on a fixed income isn’t easy. Although Donald saved all his life for retirement, unexpected life occurrences happen. Donald’s wife was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 51, she passed two years later. Donald never remarried, “Barb was the love of my life, and let me tell you, she kept me in line!” he said with a mischievous grin. Once his wife was diagnosed with cancer, much of Donald’s life savings went to paying for trips back and forth to the doctor, and for a caretaker to help her out at home when Donald was at work and when the kids, with jobs and little ones of their own were unable to stop by. What was left is now paying for Donald to stay in the facility.
For a man like Donald it’s hard to lose your independence. Now unable to drive, it is difficult to get to the grocery as often as he wishes. The facility in which Donald lives makes one trip a week with him to the store. “The grocery can charge whatever they want for food, the good stuff, like green beans, watermelon, and even frozen chicken are expensive.” Pride keeps Donald from applying for food stamps, though he would be eligible, but he will visit The Foodbank Mobile Farmers Market with his neighbors each month to get fresh produce. The Mobile Farmers Market visits Donald’s living facility once a month, where nearly all 90 residents come to get fresh food such as cabbage, ears of corn, collard and mustard greens (a favorite!), and zucchini.
The Foodbank and its 88 member agencies served 4500 seniors last year. Food insecure seniors who do not get the nutrient-rich foods they need are 40% more likely to experience heart-related illnesses and 60% more likely to suffer from depression. Looking at Donald, it’s easy to see the impact that good nutrition makes during the golden years.
As we were leaving, Donald shook the hand of our team, his grip as tight as a twenty-year old man’s, and said he’d see us next month. Walking out the door of the facility we heard Donald ask one more time if the staff needed help fixing that leaking pipe.
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