Loneliness and Isolation in the Elderly and how Meals On Wheels of Tampa is helping

Written by: Maria Fernanda Meza Martinez, USF Dietetic Intern, University of South Florida College of Public Health

For the past 18 months, we have experienced the COVID-19 pandemic, and many of us have experienced isolation first-hand. In the beginning months, feelings of depression, loneliness, anxiety, and isolation from society were common emotions. While these feels have started to fade as COVID-19 becomes more under control, this is still the reality of many of our seniors and homebound individuals in our area.

We as humans are social creatures. We need human contact to be able to survive and thrive. Isolation and loneliness can have negative effects on the human mind, increasing the risk of some very serious conditions, such as depression, cognitive decline, and heart disease1. Seniors are more susceptible to this situation because they may struggle to get out of the house by themselves or they may live alone which leads to less opportunities to interact with others.

This is where Meals on Wheels comes in. They help seniors feel less isolated and lonely. Meals On Wheels volunteers not only deliver a hot meal, they also provide human contact. A Meals On Wheels volunteer might be the only person a meal recipient sees the day, or the only person they may see throughout the week. That’s why volunteers are encourages to talk to recipients, give them that social human connection we all need. A daily meal delivery gives the recipient a reason to get out of bed and get dressed because they know that someone is coming to see them.

When I delivered meals this week, the recipients were excited for the food, but many of them were just as excited that someone was coming to see them and have a chat. One recipient talked to my delivery partner and I about what he used to do when he used to work, and it really made me happy to see how excited he was to talk to someone about what he used to do for a living. Volunteers really make a difference for the seniors and recipients in the community, by delivering meals with a friendly face and small chat that many of us take for granted. If you want to be a part of helping seniors by delivering hot meals with a pleasant conversation, sign up to volunteer for Meals on Wheels of Tampa!


  1. Social isolation, loneliness in older people pose health risks. (2019, April 23). National Institute on Aging. https://www.nia.nih.gov/news/social-isolation-loneliness-older-people-pose-health-risks