Meal delivery services for seniors enable older folks unable to cook to have affordable, nutritious meals delivered to their door.
Meal delivery services for seniors are more than just take out. The meals are prepared in consultation with experts on senior nutrition, and most services offer specialty items and meal plans to accommodate different dietary requirements.
Our team of experts surveyed the meal delivery service landscape and determined that the following represent the best meal delivery services for seniors in 2020.
1. Silver Cuisine
As the name implies, the mission of Silver Cuisine is to provide older folks with the nutrient-rich food they need to live longer and healthier lives. Silver Cuisine offers everything from American comfort food to Bison Meatloaf, a Thai Coconut Chicken.
What we like: The variety is impressive. The AARP discounts make many items very affordable. There is no need for a long-term financial commitment. And they let you formulate your own meal plan, rather than forcing one on you.
Flaws: Curiously, their ‘vegetarian’ dishes often contain seafood. A vegetarian no-no.
Freshology is a subsidiary of Diettogo, which we’ll look at in a minute. The difference is that, while Diettogo is focused on helping people lose weight, Freshology is more focused on overall health management.
What we like: Vegetarians, keto dieters, and folks who just want to indulge their taste buds in a healthy way will appreciate Freshology. You have four structured meal plans to choose from: Balance, Balance-Diabetes, Keto, and Vegetarian.
Flaws: Not having the option to choose individual items will turn some off.
3. Mom’s Meals
Mom’s Meals produces comfort food of extraordinary quality and nutrient value and works closely with seniors, their caregivers, family members, local relief agencies, and more. They are serious about providing the elderly with high-quality food in a convenient, no-hassle fashion.
What we like: The array of meal plans is impressive. They have all the bases covered from seniors living on their own, to those returning from the hospital, to those living with chronic disease. Everything can be customized to fit individual needs.
Flaws: It can take time to nail down exactly how much the different plans will cost different people.
It’s crucial that seniors watch their weight. Failing to do so simply exacerbates chronic health problems and can shorten life. Diettogo provides a healthy, safe, and dependable way for the elderly to keep their weight in check while enjoying delicious food.
What we like: Diettogo is one of the few large meal delivery services that brings hot food right to your door. Seniors can also have friends, family, or caregivers pick up their food for them. They offer health coaches too.
Flaws: Might be too structured for some folks.
5. The Magic Kitchen
Magic Kitchen offers an incredible array of meals, including more than 100 prepared meals created specifically for seniors. The company also provides Local Areas of Aging senior services and other government-supported programs for the elderly.
What we like: The Magic Kitchen ships to all 50 states and offers diabetic, vegetarian, and other food in addition to their senior menu. Because they flash-freeze their meals, you can reheat them in a conventional oven as opposed to the microwave.
Flaws: They could afford to work a bit on their meal presentation.
6. Homestyle Direct
Homestyle Direct offers Medicaid-approved meals to seniors in nearly two-dozen states. But they also offer scores of lost cost, direct pay meal options for seniors nationwide. All their meals are designed to address the specific nutritional needs of seniors.
What we like: Even if you live in a state where Medicaid-covered meals are not available, the direct pay options are affordable and equally high-quality. Whatever your dietary needs, they have a meal plan to address them.
Flaws: Sometimes the shipping can cost more than the meal.
If you have an aging relative who loves their comfort food but is unable to cook, you can make sure they always have delicious, nutritious traditional American fare by using SendaMeal.
What we like: SendaMeal does comfort food right. They retain all the flavor, texture, and nutrient value, while keeping calories, sodium, and other dietary no-nos at bay. You will probably wind up ordering SendaMeals for yourself as well as your aging loved one.
Flaws: If you’re looking for exotic fare, you won’t find it here.
8. Home Bistro
While not specifically marketed to the senior set, Home Bistro meals nonetheless fulfill many of the dietary requirements of older folks, who often suffer from cardiovascular problems, diabetes, obesity, and other issues.
What we like: Home Bistro goes the extra mile to provide nutrient-rich, low-cal, delicious meals. You can order specific boxes like the Heart Healthy box that provides 10 amazing meals at a reasonable price. You can even pay by installments.
Flaws: Not the widest variety of meal choices.
For seniors who still enjoy cooking but are not able to get to the supermarket on a regular basis, there’s HelloFresh. Normally we don’t abide meal kits, but HelloFresh takes convenience up a notch or two, making it feasible even for those who may not be in robust health.
What we like: Each box comes with all the ingredients you need, organized in a logical manner, as well as easy to follow cooking instructions. In most cases, the final product is well worth the effort.
Flaws: Don’t confuse these with pre-cooked meals.
Obesity in seniors is a growing problem that is too often ignored. Medifast does not shy away from it. Instead, they make it their mission to provide people of all ages the low-calorie, nutrient-rich food they need to get a handle on their waistline.
What we like: It’s hard enough getting older without also being overweight. Medifast enables seniors to slim down and thereby remove myriad potential health problems from the picture. All meals are doctor-approved.
Flaws: You’ll need to drink two quarts of water per day. Undoubtedly smart, but not always easy.
Are Meal Delivery Service for Seniors Really Necessary?
It’s an unfortunate aspect of aging that people often experience reduced mobility, vision problems, arthritis, and other chronic conditions. Sometimes these problems are manageable. And sometimes, they interfere with the ability of a person to provide themselves regular, nutritious meals.
Enter meal delivery services for seniors. These companies, and the important service they provide, have been made possible by two recent developments: the internet and overnight delivery to locations near and far.
For the first time in history, a senior living in an isolated location can use their phone to order up a week or a month’s worth of delicious, high-quality meals that conform to their exact dietary needs, and have them at their door within a couple of days. No more dependence on family, friends and neighbors. No more going to bed hungry.
Meal delivery services are fast becoming an indispensable part of the nutritional landscape for seniors. And, contrary to popular belief, they are not just for the well-to-do. Many providers offer AARP discounts, along with daily and weekly specials, and can be paid for in whole or in part by Medicaid or Medicare Advantage plans.
How We Ranked
Meal delivery services for seniors are a bit different than meal delivery services for everyone else. Even healthy seniors have very particular nutritional requirements driven by changes to their physiology and metabolic processes as they age. Seniors typically need more calcium, more magnesium, more fiber, and more B vitamins than healthy young people.
So it was not good enough to simply include any old meal delivery service on our list. They had to have nutritional experts on their staff familiar with the dietary needs of seniors. And that knowledge had to be reflected in the menu.
Many seniors these days are suffering from type 2 diabetes. So the meal delivery companies had to pay more than lip service to that affliction. On a related note, more seniors than ever are struggling to control their weight. So services that offered a generous array of low-cal dishes and meal plans scored extra points.
Services that relied on salt, sugar, MSG, or artificial flavors, additives, and preservatives (and there are more than a few of them) did not rank for our list. Nor did those companies that only served a regional clientele. We wanted services that deliver to the remotest areas of all 50 states.
Packaging was something we considered as well because many seniors suffer from arthritis that makes it difficult for them to open things. So, while we understand the need for good packaging, it was also important that the packaging did not present an obstacle standing between the senior and their food.
Finally, because seniors are often on fixed incomes, it was important too that any meal delivery service for seniors be affordable. Either because the meals themselves were less expensive, or because the company offered things like AARP discounts, a veteran’s discount, or because they worked with Medicaid or Medicare.
Meal delivery services for seniors are convenient.This is the most obvious reason seniors should consider taking advantage of meal delivery services. It’s easy to order food and prepare meal plans extending for days or even weeks. Most services accept an array of payment options. And the food comes right to your door. When you want to eat, just pop in the microwave or conventional oven and viola! Delicious, nutritious food with no prep and little cleanup.
A meal delivery service for seniors lends families a helping hand. As parents get older it becomes harder to cook and the burden of care typically falls to their kids. But those kids usually have kids of their own as well as careers. Finding the time to make sure mom and dad have the nutritious food they need is not always easy. Meal delivery services for seniors can lend a hand and make sure everyone is properly taken care of.
Some meal delivery services for seniors are covered by Medicare Advantage. Unfortunately, many seniors don’t take advantage of meal delivery services because they are not aware some or all of the cost may be covered by their Medicare Advantage plan (1). These plans can, and often do, provide coverage for meal deliveries as long as the person has a justifiable medical need, such as recovering from surgery, rheumatoid arthritis, or another condition.
Meal delivery services for seniors ensure they don’t go to bed hungry.All too often, when seniors can’t cook for themselves, they end up going to bed hungry. Their adult children often aren’t even aware of it because, in many cases, the elderly parents don’t want to complain or seem like a burden. By arranging for regular meal deliveries, this type of scenario never has to play out.
Meal delivery services for seniors deliver everywhere. The rise of the internet and next-day shipping has created a situation where no one in the US is truly isolated anymore the way many were just 30 or 40 years ago. Meal delivery services for seniors take full advantage of the new technology and the new delivery methods to bring high-quality meals to seniors in all 50 states.
A meal delivery service for seniors beats fast food. Studies indicate that seniors who eat fast food twice a week (which is increasingly common these days) increase their risk of obesity and other negative health outcomes (2). Seniors often default to fast food, though, because they can’t cook and don’t feel like they have any viable alternatives. Meal delivery services for seniors can be that viable alternative.
Meal delivery services for seniors save you trips to the store. Getting out to the supermarket if you have arthritis or other mobility issues isn’t always possible. That is especially true when the cold winter weather sets in. Meal delivery services for seniors can ensure that no matter how they’re feeling, or how much snow and ice is on the sidewalk, they can have the nutritious, high-quality food they need and deserve.
A meal delivery service for seniors can be shared by the whole family. If you are ordering meals from a meal delivery service for yourself, why not order some for your family as well and have them over for dinner? After all, the food produced by these services is as good or better than you will get in many restaurants. If you’re ordering meals for an elderly parent, why not order some extra and arrange to dine with them a couple of times a week?
A meal delivery service for seniors helps those with diabetes. As the number of older people who are overweight increases, so too does the number of senior citizens with type 2 diabetes. It’s now estimated that as many as 14 million American seniors have diabetes (3), and that number is only going to increase. Most senior meal delivery services dedicate a portion of their menu to foods specifically prepared for diabetics.
Meal delivery services for seniors are run by nutritionists. Either that, or they have doctors and nutritionists on their staff, advising them regarding the specific nutritional needs of older individuals. This helps ensure that the foods they offer are rich in vital nutrients and free of the empty carbs and calories that wind up collecting around the waist and posing a risk to cardiovascular and even mental health (4).
A meal delivery service for seniors can help those with chewing difficulties. There are numerous reasons why some older folks have a hard time chewing their food properly. A lack of molars, poorly designed or loose dentures, and a decrease in saliva production all play a hand. Meal delivery services for seniors offer many types of food that account for difficulty chewing and ensure everyone gets the nutrients they need.
Meal delivery services for seniors can help them keep their homes. Seniors are often forced to more to assisted living facilities because they can no longer cook for themselves. Meal delivery services for seniors remove the burden of food preparation from the older person and enable them to stay in their one home where they are most comfortable.
A meal delivery service for seniors helps alleviate feelings of isolation. As people age, friends die or move, children become caught up with their own families, and the elderly person gets increasingly isolated. That can have a significant impact on mental health and pose other health risks as well (5). It may not seem like much, but just knowing the meal delivery person will be coming every week can help alleviate those feelings of isolation.
A meal delivery service for seniors makes entertaining easy. Just because someone is older doesn’t mean they don’t still enjoy get-togethers. But cooking for medium or large-sized groups can be a significant chore. Meal delivery services for seniors allow them to plan their events in advance and make sure there is lots of top-quality, nutritious food available for their guests.
Meal delivery services for seniors sometimes offer AARP discounts. A quick check of the prices on some of the most popular senior meal delivery sites may turn some folks off, thinking that they’re just for the wealthy. But this is not the case. Some services offer discounts to AARP members. Others work with social service agencies to provide meals on a sliding scale. And others can be paid for using Medicare Advantage.
Meal delivery services for seniors can help seniors lose weight. Obesity is a growing problem among the elderly (6)(7), and it can contribute to a rash of chronic illnesses that can undermine their quality of life and shorten their lifespan. Meal delivery services for seniors provide delicious, low-calorie meals that can stop weight gain in its tracks, and, in many cases, enable them to lose weight.
Meal delivery services for seniors take the guesswork out of portion control. As we age, our nutritional needs change, which means the amount and types of food we need change as well. As a result, portion control often becomes a problem, with many seniors getting too much of what they don’t need and not enough of what they do. Meal delivery services for seniors have doctors and nutritionists on hand to oversee portion control.
Meal delivery services for seniors are essential when recovering from a fall. According to the National Council on Aging, one in every four senior Americans falls each year (8). All told, more than 800,000 seniors wind up being hospitalized due to falls in the US each year. When these folks finally get home, they are in no condition to cook. Meal delivery services help ensure that they maintain proper nutrition, which, in turn, hastens the recovery period and helps ensure proper healing (9).
A meal delivery service for seniors helps them stay independent. Most seniors have spent their entire adult lives taking care of themselves. Most have no interest in becoming dependent on others to fulfill their daily needs. Meal delivery services help independent-minded seniors maintain their autonomy while also removing the burden of care from loved ones.
Meal delivery services for seniors are reliable. The meal delivery services for seniors that we chose for our list use only the best, most dependable delivery services, including FedEx and UPS. As a result, they have outstanding reputations for reliability. That reliability is crucial for the seniors who use their services.
Q: What is a meal delivery service for seniors?
A: A meal delivery service for seniors is a company that produces and ships healthy, prepared foods to older folks who often have trouble cooking for themselves. Meal delivery services for seniors are a completely new idea. At their core, they represent a significant ramping up of the Meals on Wheels concept (10), which arose in the aftermath of World War II in England, and subsequently spread through most of the developed world.
Q: Why do seniors need a meal delivery service?
A: There are myriad reasons why an older individual or couple might want to use a meal delivery service. A lack of mobility can make getting to the store to buy food difficult. Arthritis may make preparing and cooking food nearly impossible. If an elderly person suffers from poor vision (11), it may not be safe for them to use a stove or oven. But sometimes, seniors who’ve been cooking their whole lives just want a break, but still want to enjoy delicious, healthy food.
Q: Do meal delivery services require a long-term commitment?
A: Some do and some don’t. Most will gently encourage you to sign on for a set period of time. But if you don’t want to, they’ll still allow you to shop on a per-visit basis. In addition, even if you do sign up long-term, many services will allow you to opt-out after a given amount of time. Say a couple of months. Meal kit delivery services tend to want longer commitments than those services offering pre-cooked meals.
Q: Do seniors have specific nutritional needs?
A: Even if an elderly person is not beset by health problems, their nutritional needs are still different than when they were younger. There are a lot of reasons for this, including an aging nervous system and a slowing metabolism. As a general rule, seniors typically need more calcium and vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, plenty of fiber, magnesium, potassium for kidneys and heart, and B vitamins to produce red blood cells, bolster the nervous system, and much more.
Q: How do meal delivery services for seniors ensure the food arrives fresh?
A: Pre-cooked meals are usually frozen at the source shortly after being cooked. They are then shipped out within just a few days of being prepared. In the case of a service like Diettogo, which offers hot meals, they contract with numerous food prep companies around the country to produce their dishes for them. This cuts down on delivery time and enables them to offer fresh, hot food delivered to your door.
Q: Will Medicare cover the cost of a meal delivery service?
A: It surprises many seniors to learn that, while standard Medicare will not cover meal deliveries, many Medicare Advantage plans will. The only stipulation is that you must show a medical need to have meals delivered to you. That is often easy enough for seniors with mobility issues, or those returning home after a hospital stay and such. If you have Medicare Advantage contact your insurer and ask if they cover meal deliveries.
Q: Can I set up regular deliveries?
A: Yes. Most meal (not all) delivery services for seniors give you the option of ordering individual meals, enough meals for a week or weeks, or buying into an established meal plan. Arrange to have your food automatically delivered on whatever schedule works best for you. That way, you can be sure you will never be without the nutrient-rich food you need to maintain optimal health.
Q: Are meal delivery services just take out food?
A: If one wanted to split hairs, one could make the argument that meal delivery services for seniors are glorified take out services. In reality, however, there are a couple of significant differences. First of all, take out usually shows up at your door within an hour of ordering it. Often faster than that. Meal delivery services typically take one to three days. Secondly, take out typically originates in a local restaurant. While meal delivery services do not run brick and mortar restaurants.
Q: Are pre-cooked meals delivered hot and ready to eat?
A: The only meal delivery service on our list that offers hot food delivered to your door is Diettogo. They’re able to do so because of their arrangement with dozens of food prep companies nationwide. Most others produce their meals in a single location, which makes delivering that food hot to customers potentially thousands of miles away impossible.
Q: Are the meal delivery service meals healthy?
A: All of the meal delivery services for seniors on our list provide healthy, nutrient-rich food. They understand their reputation rests on not loading up their dishes with salt, sugar, or MSG (12), and that the seniors buying and eating their food depend on it to be moderate to low-calorie as well. Most offer vegetarian menus, some offer vegan dishes, and others offer entire meal plans that are heart-healthy or prepared specifically for diabetics.
Q: Will a meal delivery service accommodate my food allergies?
A: Most meal delivery services for seniors offer menu items or meal plans designed to comply with various dietary needs. That includes offering dishes that are free of common food allergens like gluten, soy, dairy, peanuts, and more. In most cases, when you sign up for a service, you will be asked to indicate any food allergies. If you do, the meal choices you are presented with will be filtered to accommodate that allergy.
Q: Do I have to eat the meals as soon as they arrive?
A: No. Even if you are ordering hot meals from a service like Diettogo, you always have the option of refrigerating it and eating it at a later date. Most meal delivery services, though, deliver their meals frozen and packed in dry ice (13). Once you unbox them, you put them in your freezer where they should be good for up to a year, in most cases. Meal kits also tend to have pretty long shelf lives, since they are just raw ingredients.
Q: Can I pick and choose the foods I want?
A: Most meal delivery services allow you to choose meals buffet style and to mix and match to your heart’s content. However, a few have set meal plans that lay everything out for you for a month or more down the line. Before you sign on for a service, make sure that it’s the kind of service you really want.
Q: Is there any way to get a discount on meals?
A: Yes. Some meal delivery services off AARP (14) discounts. Some offer discounts to veterans. In other cases, the cost may be covered by Medicaid or by a Medicare Advantage plan. Most meal delivery services also offer daily or weekly specials at significant discounts. So it pays to visit the website of your favorite service often so that you don’t miss any of these special deals.
Q: Is it possible to get vegan or keto meals delivered?
A: While some meal delivery services for seniors don’t offer keto-specific menu items or meal plans, there are some who do. In addition, every meal delivery service on our list offers vegetarian items, although you need to be careful. That’s because some services consider seafood items to be vegetarians. Though, by definition, they are not. True vegan (15) meals are much more difficult, though not impossible, to find.
Q: If I don’t like a meal, can I return it?
A: Most meal delivery services for seniors will not allow you to return products or to cancel an order that is already in transit. That’s because prepared food cannot be resold once it has been shipped. A few services, however, are exceptions to the rule. They will allow you to return meals for a full refund. The thinking being that it’s better from a PR standpoint to take the occasional loss than to prohibit returns.
Meal delivery services for seniors provide high-quality, surprisingly affordable, nutrient-rich meals, meal plans, and specialty foods.
Seniors having difficulty providing for themselves, as well as their overworked loved ones, will find meal delivery services fill an important dietary and logistical niche.
The meal delivery services on our list are safe and reliable, are backed by acknowledged experts in the field of senior nutrition, and deliver their product to all 50 states.
For cpoe.org’s #1 recommended meal delivery service for seniors, click here.