Variety the secret to a great meal

19 March 2024

For a man in his 90th year, Ron Donnelly is committed to keeping active. He still has his driver’s licence, talks or texts his two children nearly every day and retains a sharp wit. And through Meals on Wheels, Ron gets something he deems just as important – “variety”. 

Ron lives on his own but has family close by if needed. He has a daughter in Tauranga, granddaughter and two great grandsons in Cambridge, and his son visits once every four months from Brisbane. 

“I'm quite happy with my retired life and now because of my age, I'm not as active as I was. But I’m fortunate that I've still got my driving license, so I still get out and about,” he said. 

Born and bred in Hamilton, Ron’s only time spent living outside the city were a few years at a Tuakau boarding school and short stints in Timaru and Taupo. Originally starting his professional career in a bank, he transitioned into public sector roles – first as an auditor and then as a legal executive. 

“I spent the best part of 40 years, if you like, in the legal world. I was never a qualified solicitor and I went by the imposing title of Legal Executive, which meant I was an unqualified legal operator,” he said. 

“I got to the stage where I was reasonably well accomplished in my legal knowledge even though I wasn’t really a qualified solicitor.” 

Ron continued to work until he was 75, before devastating news left him at a crossroads. His wife became seriously ill, requiring care. 

“I couldn't carry out two full time jobs, namely my paid job and the job of looking after my wife,” Ron said. “When my wife died, I elected to stop working, which with the benefit of hindsight was the wrong thing for me to have done.” 

After Ron’s retirement, he settled into his new routine. One thing he did struggle with was his culinary skills, especially when it came to changing things up. 

“I'd been cooking for myself, after I lost my wife, for the best part of 10 years or thereabouts. I really wasn’t getting a variety in my diet, because I kept on cooking the same food. 

“That is how I got the Meals on Wheels. And thanks to your volunteers, I get it delivered at no cost to me.” 

Ron’s Meals on Wheels journey started close to 2 years ago, after a referral from the local hospital. He has been receiving meals every day since then, with each meal delivered by a New Zealand Red Cross volunteer.  

“Not long after I commenced getting Meals on Wheels, the COVID pandemic struck. It was decided they didn’t want their meals being delivered by volunteers into homes where they didn’t know whether the person they were delivering to had COVID or not. They asked us to leave a chilly bin out on our back porches.” 

Now out of COVID restrictions, Ron has been able to interact more with Peter, his Meals on Wheels volunteer who provides four days worth of meals. 

“He (Peter) delivers my meals on a Thursday and Friday … they don’t deliver meals on the weekends, so on the Friday I get my usual Friday meal plus two frozen meals for the Saturday and Sunday.” 

Ron continues to be grateful for the support he receives from the Meals on Wheels service. Each Christmas, Ron purchases Instant Kiwi tickets and puts them in a Christmas card for the volunteers. 

“I haven’t heard back from the people that receive them as to whether or not they received any money out of the lottery – but that’s fine by me. I don’t want to know that because as far as I’m concerned, if they get any money out of that action of mine, I want them to enjoy it.” 

Kind gestures keep Ron moving. Aside from a couple of strokes, Ron considers himself in reasonably good health.  

“Having a mobile phone, I can ring anyone that I want to or text anyone I wish to. I'm quite happy living on my own and because I'm reasonably well and I drive, I visit people that I know who are housebound and to my knowledge, I think they enjoy those visits,” Ron says. 

“I do that visiting under the auspices of Age Concern. It’s my way of putting back – the fact that I’m able to visit people and hopefully make their life a little bit more interesting. I'm not saying I do, but I hope I do.” 

Having a warm meal ready and waiting for when he has finished his adventures is motivation enough for Ron. He appreciates that “your volunteers deliver in all weathers – storms, rain or sunshine”. 

“So far I’ve never missed a Meals on Wheels delivered. Tell your volunteers that I, as a recipient of Meals on Wheels, am most happy that they are here to deliver meals to me. They’re doing a great job.” 

* We have respected Ron’s request that we not use an image of him with this story. The image shown is a file photo. 

Meals on Wheels 

Our Meals on Wheels service supports older, ill, and disabled people living at home who would otherwise struggle to provide healthy meals for themselves.

If you’re keen to deliver hot meals and have a friendly chat, Meals on Wheels is looking for volunteers.

Meals on Wheels information

** While delivery is free through our Meals on Wheels volunteers, clients pay a fee to their local provider for the meals