Local program highlights the importance of companionship during mealtime for seniors
To The Leader
BEAUMONT – Now more than ever, we recognize the importance of human connection but few realize how a lack of connection affects our daily behaviors, especially for older adults. In fact, a survey from Home Instead, Inc. found that older adults who eat most meals alone are more than twice as likely to be lonely, leading to a poorer diet compared to those who enjoy meals in the company of others.
Additionally, more than 35% of older adults experiencing loneliness and isolation graded their diet as a C or below. In turn, 29% described their health as fair or poor. As we return to a more familiar way of life and begin to gather again in person, Home Instead encourages family and friends to share a meal with older loved ones. Not only will it strengthen relationships, but it likely will impact the quality of food seniors consume.
“Socialization at mealtimes reduces feelings of isolation and improves nutritional intake, but the pandemic has made this increasingly difficult for seniors – impacting their overall health” said Charlie Holder, owner of the Home Instead® office serving Jefferson, Orange, and Hardin Counties. “Studies show that lonely seniors skip more than 20% of their total meals, so bringing them together, especially at mealtime, can increase healthy longevity.”
To improve mealtime habits and promote connection, Home Instead in Beaumont is introducing Companionship Diet, a free program designed to demonstrate the health benefits of enjoying meals together and offer educational resources to make more informed nutritional choices. Included in the program are recipes, tips and resources designed to inspire seniors and family caregivers to make healthier choices and spend quality time together preparing and sharing nutritious meals.
Holder provides tips on how families in the Beaumont area can include older adults during mealtime:
- Involve your loved one in the preparation process. If they are up for it, ask your loved one to help with making the meal. Perhaps they can help mash the potatoes or frost the cake. If your loved one doesn’t want to help with meal preparation, he or she can sit and chat while you’re cooking and help provide instructions or share old family recipes and stories. These moments can serve as valuable bonding time.
- Plan simple and healthy meals. Check in with older adults before dinner and ask them to select a favorite recipe that you could make. Even better, ask them for their favorite childhood foods and incorporate them into mealtime. Meals should be balanced and include grains, fruits and veggies. Canned veggies can still be healthy and are a good alternative if fresh ones aren’t available. Remember to be mindful of portion size with seniors.
- Schedule regular mealtimes. Plan to get together weekly or monthly to enjoy a meal with older loved ones. Ask your loved one what ingredients they like and what dishes they prefer to involve them at every step. This will help keep seniors engaged and give them something to look forward to.
Anyone can play a role in ensuring the aging population continues to feel connected as the pandemic wanes. With Companionship Diet Home Instead demonstrates the impact personal connections and casual conversations during mealtime can have on the physical and emotional health of older adults.
These resources, and additional information about Companionship Diet, can be found at www.HomeInstead.com/CompanionshipDiet.