JOPLIN, Mo. — It’s half a century in business for a group whose focus is helping the elderly.

The Area Agency on Aging first started operations in 1973. The Joplin branch has changed a lot over the years, with some of the biggest growth in meals programming.

In Joplin alone, nearly 70,000 meals were delivered through Meals on Wheels in the last fiscal year. That’s on top of food served at the “Joplin Senior Center.” And who’s getting those meals is changing as well. Traditionally, they went to residents 75 and older, but that age is dropping.

“Only 43% of the people we serve are over 75. That was that was quite a change. So that means that that people that are 60 and over are having trouble getting out and about and accessing the services they need younger and younger, year over year,” said Jennifer Shotwell, AAA C.E.O.

The addition of grocery donations, along with home-delivered meals, totaled 13 tons in fiscal year 2023.