Posts Tagged: senior citizens
“I didn't know I would get so much soil today, now I can grow more cucumbers in my room!” said Miss Anita as she placed fresh soil into her plant pottery on Community Planting Day. The Estabrook Place resident was a first-time participant of a new gardening program for older adults hosted by the University of California Cooperative Extension in Alameda County.
The UC Cooperative Extension senior gardening program integrates healthy eating, active living and gardening education. Miss Anita was one of 200 seniors who participated in the gardening and nutrition education program led by Katherine Uhde, a CalFresh Healthy Living, UC community education specialist, in collaboration with the UC Master Gardener Program of Alameda County.
According to the National Institute of Aging, older adults experience high levels of social isolation and loneliness, which lead to an increased risk of chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, depression and obesity. Educational activities that promote a healthy lifestyle and encourage interaction with peers are recommended to prevent these conditions in aging adults.
“We need to be able to address the needs of our greying generation and focus on prevention rather than treatment,” explained Mary Blackburn, UC Cooperative Extension nutrition, family, and consumer sciences advisor, about the benefits of group-based wellness activities for seniors.
The senior gardening program was developed by Blackburn and tested at Palo Vista Gardens Community, an Oakland Housing Authority-managed senior property. It is part of a larger quality of life study on the health of aging adults being conducted at seven Eden Housing sites with CalFresh Healthy Living, UC, which serves diverse populations of people who are eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as CalFresh food. Through nutrition education and physical activity classes, CalFresh Healthy Living, UC empowers seniors and other underserved Californians to improve their health.
This is the first project that CalFresh Healthy Living, UC partnered on with Eden Housing, a nonprofit provider of affordable housing in Alameda County. Through the collaboration, Eden Housing residents are able learn about nutrition, food safety and gardening concurrently at their living facilities. Residents learned how to grow fresh herbs, including marjoram and basil, while learning the benefits of cooking with them.
In past research, Blackburn found unsafe food handling practices used by over half of the fixed-income seniors and food handlers and caregivers serving seniors surveyed in 10 counties. At the Alameda County location, a UC Master Food Preserver volunteer, trained in Solano County, offers safe food handling classes.
Because the residents speak various languages including Cantonese, Vietnamese, Spanish, and Korean, CalFresh Healthy Living, UC has partnered with the Volunteer Health Interpreters Organization to connect certified, student volunteer translators to assist the participants. This partnership allows UCCE educators to communicate with participants in their native language and allows residents to more easily interact with their neighbors and develop friendships.
To paraphrase the African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child,” it takes a community to meet the needs of people with various physical and mental abilities, cultural backgrounds and life experiences.
On Community Planting Day, every senior resident is smiling as they dig their hands into the dirt to make room for a seed or seedling. Residents who were strangers before the event are exchanging ideas of what they would like to grow, and like Miss Anita, are enthused to grow more vegetables.
To assess the benefits of the gardening program for seniors, Blackburn is working with Lisa Soederberg Miller, director of the Adult Development Lab and professor in the Department of Human Ecology at UC Davis. They hope to share what they learn with others who wish to establish a similar program for seniors in their community.
“I've reached more than 500 adults in the last year – in places like Exeter, Porterville, Cutler and Goshen,” Escalante said. “I go to senior centers, churches, welfare-to-work programs.”
Escalante visits each facility four times for one-hour sessions that include lessons from UC's research-based “Plan, Shop, Save, Cook” curriculum, plus physical activity and a cooking demonstration. Last week, Escalante presented the training to senior citizens in Exeter, a city of 10,000 near the Sierra Nevada foothills.
“When I go around the valley to different sites, a lot of people are familiar with ranch,” Escalante said holding up a bottle of dressing. “They like ranch, they use ranch for everything – pizza, fries, chicken wings and then we drench it on our salads. But did you know just two tablespoons is 160 calories. What if we switched it up, and tried a little honey mustard dressing? Two tablespoons is only 70 calories.”
Escalante explained the difference between good fats and bad fats and she taught the participants best practices for budget-minded grocery shopping.
Look at quantity, store-brand products and convenience to find savings, Escalante advised. Buying in bulk is often cheaper, but for seniors living alone, it may not be the most economical choice.
“You have to look at the size of your household,” Escalante said. “If we are going to save a few pennies buying the larger amount, but it's going to go to waste, it's not worth it. You have to look at the unit price, but also your household.
After leading the nutrition lesson, Escalante encouraged everyone to move to the beat of a Latin tune.
"Come on everybody, let's get up," she called. "You can do it sitting down. If you're sitting down, use your hands. If you can stand, go around in circles."
To close the class, Escalante whipped up a “monster smoothie,” which looks like “something that oozed out of a swamp, but tastes great and has monster nutrition,” said the recipe handout. A key ingredient is kale, a leafy green that contributes vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin K, plus the minerals copper, potassium, iron, manganese and phosphorus. Find the recipe below the video:
- 2 cups chopped kale
- 1 overripe banana, cliced
- 1 apple, cored and chopped
- 1 cup frozen blueberries
- 1 cup plain low-fat yogurt
- 1/2 cup orange juice
- 2 tablespoons toasted almonds or walnuts (optional)
- Put the kale, banana, apple, blueberries, yogurt, orange juice and nuts in athe blender. Put the top on tightly.
- Turn the blender to medium and blend until the mixture is very smooth.
- Serve right away or store in a thermos or covered in the refrigerator up to 4 hours.