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8 Popular Food Service Options for the Elderly

Written by Angelike Gaunt
 about the author
5 minute readLast updated March 30, 2023

If your aging parents live in an assisted living community where meals are readily available, nutrition is likely one less thing to worry about. But if your loved ones live with you, or on their own, senior meal delivery and food service options can provide them with nourishing, healthy meals. Read on to determine what services best fit your aging loved one’s needs and budgets.

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What to consider when selecting a food service option for seniors

Food services allow seniors who can’t regularly cook for themselves — or caregivers who need a break — a healthy meal option that’s not only easy, but also nutritious. Many Americans are turning to these helpful programs to help elderly loved ones stay happy, healthy and nourished.
There are many factors to consider when choosing a meal delivery service. You want to take your loved one’s unique situation into account and consider everything from their physical capabilities to their financial outlook. Begin with the following questions:
  • Can your loved one cook complete meals? This will help determine if your loved one would do better with a grocery or meal delivery service. Some seniors take joy in spending time in the kitchen, while for others, mobility, balance, and memory issues can make cooking difficult or unsafe. For some older adults, prepared meals that just need to be heated may be a better option.
  • What is your budget? If you choose a meal kit or prepared meal services for seniors, research options that fit your loved one’s budget. Costs for these services vary and, in some cases, may be available at reduced rates based on need.
  • Are there any dietary restrictions to consider? Look for options that accommodate your loved one’s dietary needs, and be sure to check meal options for possible food-and-drug interactions. Certain services cater to specific diets, such as diabetic-friendly, vegetarian, or low-sodium.
  • How many meals per week are needed? If you’re considering meal kits or pre-prepared meals, you want to factor in how often they’ll be needed and what kind of plans a provider offers. You or your loved one may be able to cook a few times a week, alternating with kits or prepared meals, and this can also help keep the costs down.

Grocery delivery services

There are more options than ever for purchasing groceries without leaving the comfort of home. Grocery delivery services such as Shipt require a yearly-subscription, while Instacart allows for more flexibility, offering customers both subscription and per-order models. These services offer door drop-offs to increase safety and minimize contact.
Many local grocery stores also partner with delivery services such as DoorDash and Uber to offer their own grocery delivery options. This allows your loved one to continue shopping from their favorite local store without the hassle of shopping in person. They will still have to come up with their own grocery list, though, and not all items available in-store are available for purchase online, so plan accordingly.

Meal kit delivery services

While grocery delivery services allow your loved one to shop supermarket aisles from the comfort and safety of home, meal kit delivery services add a little fun into the mix by curating a regularly changing menu built from pre-portioned ingredients. These kits then pair those ingredients with straightforward, healthy recipes. Blue ApronHello Fresh, and Sun Basket are just a few of the popular meal kit delivery services that offer a variety of plans to fit your loved one’s needs. You can select from options for breakfast, lunch, or dinner and decide how often you want meals delivered. Some services also offer meal selections based on your dietary needs and preferences. However, meal kit delivery services may be expensive. Each serving tends to cost around $9 to $13.

Let our care assessment guide you

Our free tool provides options, advice, and next steps based on your unique situation.

Prepared meal delivery services

Older adults may struggle with cooking for many reasons. They may lack the skills, time, or motivation to prepare healthy, nutritious meals. In some cases, physical or memory issues may make cooking more difficult. Or they may simply appreciate the convenience of having prepared meals delivered right to their home.
Prepared meal delivery services, such as MagicKitchen.com or Silver Cuisine, specialize in senior nutrition and cater to specific diets, such as heart-healthy, diabetic-friendly, low-sodium, and more. Several providers offer the option of mixing and matching menu options and even maintain subscription services which can be easily stopped and restarted.
As with meal kit delivery services, expect to pay around $9 to $13 per individual meal. And, note that in some cases you may be required to purchase two or more servings each order, so budget accordingly.

Restaurant delivery services

Sometimes we just want meals from our favorite restaurant without the fuss of going out. Companies such as DoorDashGrubhub, and Postmates can deliver food from a variety of restaurants and fast-food chains — just make sure your loved one is eating healthy and following their diet, if they have one.
Some restaurants offer free delivery, while others may charge a fee. Not all restaurants are offered on all delivery platforms, and different platforms offer different deals, so it’s always a good idea to check multiple websites to find the best prices. Also, prices even for a particular dish may vary day to day depending on deals and other factors.

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Budget-friendly food service options for seniors

Meals on Wheels is the largest national provider of meal services for seniors offering affordable options and financial assistance programs based on need. The organization comprises 5,000 nutrition programs across the country and even offers catered menus and diet-specific food options in some states and counties.
Generally, you must be 60 or older to be eligible for the program, but age requirements may vary by location. Those with mobility challenges may qualify for home delivery, while others can get meals delivered to senior centers and cafes. You can look for available services in your area by entering your zip code in the search tool.
The National Care Planning Council provides more information on helpful community meal options across America. Community centers and churches can also offer prepared meals for seniors, as well as additional information on meal delivery options in your family’s area. They’re a great place to start to find affordable, nutritious meal options near you.


Meet the Author
Angelike Gaunt

Angelike Gaunt is a content strategist at OurParents. She’s developed health content for consumers and medical professionals at major health care organizations, including Mayo Clinic, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and the University of Kansas Health System. She’s passionate about developing accessible content to simplify complex health topics.

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