During my single days, which stretched well into my middle age, my best friend's grandmother "adopted" me. And not long after, she started trying to find me a suitable mate.
Every time I talked to her, she'd tell me, "You're nice, and you should have someone who's yours. You don't want to be alone. You really need to find yourself a beau." Which is kind of funny, because eventually, that's exactly what I did. I married a man named Beaux. That would have amused her.
But back then, when she was actively shopping for my future husband, she looked at all the people she'd ever known, carefully considering their unmarried sons and brothers, and she eventually settled on the very nice man who delivered her meals every day, courtesy of Salt Lake County Aging Services. She did her level best to hook us up.
I visited with her every week or so. Sometimes it seemed like I was always heading for her house, sandwiching it in between my other obligations. I'm sure, in retrospect, it seemed to her I dropped by on rare occasion. But she loved me, no question.
She loved him even more. He was the one individual she could count on seeing day in and day out. He took time to visit with her and joke and tell her that the sweater she'd had forever was pretty. He'd take a couple of minutes and do simple tasks for her if she needed it. And his photo could have illustrated the "reliable" entry in her dictionary.
I've been thinking about her since I read a story from The Associated Press about the devastating toll that gas prices have taken on the 20,000 senior nutrition programs nationwide.
Fuel and food prices have increased nearly 20 percent in the past year, the story said. Funding for programs like Meals on Wheels or congregate meals in senior centers certainly isn't rising to keep pace. Lots of programs are going to have to cut back if they don't get more money. And the number of people in crisis not just the elderly, but all ages is growing in tandem with the rising costs as more people fall off their financial tightrope.
I was feeling a little sorry for myself because, for the first time in a long time, we're not going to have a "real" vacation this year. We simply can't afford it right now. The stories about fewer people traveling and fewer miles covered has captured my attention a lot, because misery truly does pine for companionship. This is the first time in a long time I'm actually trendy.
I'm keeping a mental tally of the prices that are rising: Fuel costs and food and utilities have garnered most of my attention, but I see the increases in even the simplest purchases.
Everyone's talking about the things they can do to save fuel, to stretch dollars. What do I have to have? What can I do without?
Services for low-income elderly people have not gotten the attention they deserve in all this. It's not just meal programs, although they're among the most sorely needed services. A friend who works with social-service programs says that many of the people they've relied on to provide help in roles such as senior companions are finding it very hard to continue because of increasing costs. Seniors on a fixed income who have served faithfully as the backbone of many volunteer efforts are staying home, as well. I've been hearing unconfirmed rumors that voluntarism in general is down somewhat, in part because the samaritans are hard-pressed to afford gas or public transportation.
A few weeks ago, I was told that the number of people donating blood has dropped, and there's speculation that part of that decrease is because people are cutting out all but mandatory trips so they can save money.We all make adjustments. But there are people who can't cut back any more than they already have. That's something we all need to think about.
Deseret News staff writer Lois M. Collins may be reached by e-mail at [email protected]