Compassion for New York City’s Elderly

This is a guest post by Beth Shapiro, the Executive Director of Citymeals.

Thirty years ago, Gael Greene and James Beard first learned that government funding to feed our homebound neighbors did not cover weekends and holidays. On Christmas Day of 1981, Citymeals-on-Wheels was born with a wonderful holiday meal delivered to 6,000 elderly neighbors by caring volunteers.

As I enjoy the sights and sounds of the holidays in 2011, I am reminded that it is still a most difficult time of year for New York’s 16,500 elderly. The disabilities associated with old age imprison them once the cold air blows in and sidewalks become ice-coated hazards. And being alone at home brings back memories of past holidays filled with family and friends.

Over the years, I’ve visited many frail meal recipients and I am always struck by how truly dependant they are on our help, our kindness and our compassion. I see women and men for whom a meal delivery and a friendly visit are the high points of the day. When food comes to the door, when someone familiar stops in to say hello and check on how things are going, lonely aged people feel reassured…and well-nourished.

My first meal delivery nearly six years ago took me to familiar streets–East 46th Street near Flatbush in Brooklyn, just blocks from where my grandparents lived until I was eight years old. I met Mamie, too afraid to go outside even if she could, because the cold wind might knock her down. Her shoes were held together with duct tape, but her smile was as bright as any model’s on the cover of a fashion magazine.

Just last week, I met Dorothy. At 91 she could barely hear as I yelled, “hello”, close to her ear. I helped carry her meal to her small tidy kitchen as it’s awkward for her to navigate with a walker. I didn’t stay long, but she grabbed my hand tightly as I left, simply smiling and closing her eyes for a moment. The memory of her grasp reminds me how lucky we are to have friends like you to help us bring meals to her door each day.

And because of people like you, this year Citymeals will deliver 48,514 meals as part of season’s greetings packages, Meal Center festivities, and home deliveries. This message then is a thank you. From Mamie, Dorothy, and all the others served by your compassion.

Our city’s oldest depend on us…and we depend on good neighbors like you. Thank you for helping us deliver a wonderful holiday meal to lonely neighbors, just like we did 30 years ago…providing a vital lifeline that lasts throughout the year.

From all of us at Citymeals, we wish you a warm and happy holiday season.

Citymeals-on-Wheels provides a continuous lifeline of nutritious food and human company to homebound elderly New Yorkers in need, helping them to live with dignity in their own familiar homes and communities.


Jim Ven
Jim Venabout a year ago

thanks for sharing.

Terry V.
Terry V5 years ago

many thanks

Heather Marvin
Heather Marvin5 years ago

In Australia they call it meals on wheels and it is a wonderful organisation that uses many volunteers who help the sick and elderly receive their lunch.

Lynne B.
Lynne B6 years ago

A big thank you to all who turn out in all weathers to deliver a hot meal. This may be the only contact that person recieving the meal has each day

Arild Warud

Why only New York City's elderly,show compassion with the elderly globally.

Dep P.
Dep P6 years ago

It's nice to know that there are people who really do care. Thank you

Newguest C.
W. C6 years ago

Thank you.

Alicia N.
Alicia N6 years ago

Thanks to all that loving people from NY.

Sharon Beth Long
Sharon Beth Long6 years ago

16,500 elderly in New York City? I believe it may be closer to 1,650,000 if you include everyone over 62.

Tanyaisa P.
Tanyaisa P6 years ago

and All Elderly hunger, abuse, neglect, simply being forgotten......and this occurs in every state and country......we must care for "those who cared for us".......remember that, it's a tanyaism