TOM BEARDEN: The pocketbook pressures facing some seniors come at a time when community charities for the elderly are feeling a financial pinch themselves. Jim White is the director of Community Affairs for Volunteers of America in Denver.
JIM WHITE, Volunteers of America: What we're looking at here at Volunteers of America, if you take the increased demand, food costs going up anywhere from 6 percent to 15 percent, depending on the item, and then our fuel going up, you know, we could look at maybe a $250,000 net impact this year on this particular program.
TOM BEARDEN: White says demand for their free meal program has gone up 15 percent in the last six months alone.
JIM WHITE: So all of a sudden, people are saying, "Well, here's a meal that I don't have to buy."
TOM BEARDEN: Meanwhile, recruiting new drivers for the Meals on Wheels program, which relies on volunteers to drive their own cars and pay for their own gas, has stalled. As a result, 2,000 Meals on Wheels programs across the country have had to put people on waitlists. Denver Meals on Wheels currently has 200 people on their list.
JIM WHITE: To tell a 92-year-old widow that we'll get to her as soon as we can for food in this country just isn't right.
TOM BEARDEN: Volunteer drivers Kip and Rhonda Hardcastle have been delivering meals for eight years and feel committed to the program.
RHONDA HARDCASTLE, Volunteer: We take a few less trips for fun across town so that we spend a little less on gas for that. And then we have it for this.
JIM WHITE: If they're already hooked into the program, if they were hooked in, and they're delivering, and they've got their seniors, you know, their special friends, when gas was $3 a gallon, well, they're not going to leave with gas at $6 a gallon.
But recruiting new volunteers and trying to expand and take care of those extra 200 people is very, very hard right now.
TOM BEARDEN: Other adult transportation services, like those that bring seniors to the doctors or to the supermarket, have had to cut back, as well.
James Grant says he would have trouble paying for the hot meal he gets every day from Meals on Wheels.
MEALS ON WHEELS RECIPIENT: Food costs is just outrageous now.
TOM BEARDEN: Senior advocates worry that paying bills will likely get harder for the elderly on a fixed income as home heating costs this winter are expected to rise.