‘Younger’ elderly volunteers key to senior programs

Gladys Judes, site manager.jpgIn honor of Older American Appreciation Month, the Eagle Bend Senior Center hosted a special meal on Wednesday, May 12. Nearly fifty seniors and guests gathered for a chicken dinner, entertainment, door prizes and an update on the Senior Nutrition Program.

“Senior Nutrition is more than just a good meal,” said Terri Weyer, the Lutheran Social Services assistant director of Senior Nutrition for several counties. Whether congregate dining at a senior center or getting meals delivered by volunteer drivers, the nutrition program reduces isolation and provides a link to other people. Sometimes it also helps identify additional needs and catalyzes setting up other needed services to allow people to stay in their own homes.

Terri told a story that continues to motivate her. “Several years ago, the volunteer driver didn’t come. The site manager went out to deliver the meals. When she got to an elderly woman’s house, the woman had raw spaghetti noodles and three pieces of bacon in a frying pan. She was trying to open a can of spaghetti sauce, with a knife, to add to the pan to cook for her dinner.” Unprepared to cook, physically incapable, or unable to follow the steps required to put a good meal on the table, some older folks rely on community programs and assistance for their daily bread.

Gladys Judes, Eagle Bend site manager, reported that the number of people who eat their weekday meals at the center is down. “Younger seniors aren’t coming to the center. We average 14 people a day.” But it’s an important meal for those who do. The number of meals on wheels has decreased, too. “Not as many referrals from Public Health,” Gladys explained.

Verna Toenyan who has worked with seniors since the 1970s says that it’s vital that younger senior citizens get involved to keep the programs going. “With an aging population, there’s going to be a need for three to four times as many bundled meals in the future.” Bundled meals are prepared at the center, frozen in microwaveable trays and delivered to homes throughout the area – 11,777 meals in 2009. “They’re called bundled meals because we can add on groceries, medications, newspapers, flyers and library materials. Those things are negotiated on a personal basis,” said Verna. She added that those who deliver the meals have also checked fuel levels and changed light bulbs.

Terri expressed appreciation for the staff at the Eagle Bend Senior Center: site manager Gladys Judes, senior cook Carol Winkler, assistant cook Darlene Klimek, Bernice Mansender and Janet Miller who handle a variety of tasks, and food transporter Ron Snyder. Volunteers are also greatly appreciated – 115 volunteer hours were documented in the month of April.

Verna invited everyone to attend the visioning session, and a free meal, on June 8, 5:30, at the Browerville Community Center. The Initiative Foundation funded project is looking at the future of Todd County. What are the bright spots? The challenges? What does the community of Todd County want in 20 years? Ten years?

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