We may live to be 100, but we still gotta eat.

The other day I was listening to a health expert explain that we can soon expect to live well past 100. He said that by 2045, thanks to medical breakthroughs and healthier lifestyles, the leading cause of death in America will be suicide, followed by homicide, followed by aerospace accidents.

In other words, modern medicine and jogging will keep us alive long enough for us to jump off a building, be shot by a mugger, or obliterated in a plane crash.

And, even if we make it through all of that, according to the health expert, we'll probably die in a world war that will be fought over water and food by an over-populated planet.

Makes you wonder why anyone would want to live to be 100.

But grow old we must, and I pondered that notion the other day after reading about some needs at the Carson City Senior Center. It seems the center's Meals on Wheels program is short on cash and the more than 160 homebound seniors who can't fend for themselves risk losing a life support line.

It might surprise some to learn that 160 or more seniors in this town depend on the Senior Center to fill their aging bellies each day. Funny thing about aging bellies, though. They get just as hungry as most any other belly. It's a myth perpetuated by a spoiled youth that people over 60 don't eat.

If you ever want proof, visit the Senior Center on Beverly Drive Monday through Friday and you'll see as many as 300 seniors eating lunch. A hot lunch can be had each day and the center only asks for a $2 contribution.

The reason lunch is so inexpensive is probably because everything else isn't. A "fixed income" today means that if you don't have any money left from your pension to buy food, you're in a "fix." Rising power and gas costs have got to be dipping into the grocery budgets.

Most retired Americans today are actually retired. They don't have the benefit of a "double dip" pension plan allowing them to collect a pension and paycheck simultaneously, as we've seen recently in Nevada government. As a result they must make ends meet with a Social Security check and whatever pension plan they invested their working lives toward.

Compound those daily challenges with a mental or physical condition that has rendered many seniors immobile and you get the need for a Meals on Wheels program.

"All of these seniors have a legitimate need for the service," said senior center executive director Janice McIntosh in an interview with one of our reporters last week. "The obvious need is there and we get calls all the time for the meals. We're trying to plug other ways for people to get their meals like through friends, relatives and the Senior Companion program - asking the companions to cook a meal for them. Some will, some won't."

That probably means that some shut-in seniors will eat and, unfortunately, some won't.

In an effort to make sure the food supply matches the demand, the senior center is sponsoring its Third Annual Bluegrass in the Garden concert on Saturday, Sept. 15 at the governor's mansion. The money will benefit the Meals on Wheels program.

Donations to the program would also be happily accepted and can be made by contacting the center at 883-0703.

Like it or not, we are living longer today. Retirement at 65 may mean another 35 years or so years of struggling to make ends meet. There are older Americans struggling right here and right now. In addition to the nourishment that the food brings to their shut-in lives, the homebound seniors must also see the Meals on Wheels program as their only link to the "outside world."

It's up to us to keep them connected.

Jeff Ackerman is publisher and editor of the Nevada Appeal.


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