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Good nutrition helps seniors age in place

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Sit down to baked chicken, a colorful medley of vegetables, mashed potatoes and gravy and a slice of apple pie.

Are you feeling hungry yet?

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Fresh-baked dishes like these are served for lunch each weekday to seniors through Lutheran Social Service.

Helping seniors stay healthy has long been an important goal at Lutheran Social Service, an organization that is celebrating 145 years of service this year, said Monica Douglas, LSS Senior Director.

"Eating well is so important, especially for seniors," Douglas said. "When seniors eat well, they feel mentally sharper, have higher energy levels and avoid illness. We also know from national surveys that seniors want to stay in their homes and age in place. Maintaining good nutrition helps them to do just that."

But staying on track with nutritious meals each day is sometimes easier said than done, Douglas added. "Seniors often tell us that it's difficult for them to cook for one or two people and, of course, it can also be expensive," Douglas said. "We make it convenient. We also know that having a place to gather for friendship, laughs and good conversation is equally important, as is having someone visit us daily when we are homebound."

Statewide, Lutheran Social Service provides noon meals in 225 dining centers and serves 1.2 million meals each year. In Beltrami County, for example, 52,864 meals were served last year in Bemidji, Blackduck, Debs, Kelliher and Waskish.

In addition to the meals served at local senior dining centers, meals are also delivered right to the door of seniors who are unable to cook or have trouble getting around. Accommodating special needs that seniors might have is a chief goal, as well.

"Our menus are prepared three months in advance, but we are able to adjust the menu and ask our senior customers what they like to offer the best service possible," Douglas said. "We also keep the health and well-being of seniors in mind by providing lower-sodium, nutritious meals, with milk, fruits and vegetables."

Another way that seniors can benefit from this service is by purchasing dining cards for meals that they can use at local Diner's Clubs, or restaurants that have partnered with LSS. At all sites, seniors can also buy meals to freeze or take home for later.

"Our mission is to help seniors stay healthy, live independently, enjoy friendship with others and continue to be involved in our community," Douglas said. "We also know from our many years of service that just being around seniors is an absolute joy. They make our work each day truly a pleasure."

LSS Senior Nutrition is funded in part with federal funds through the Older Americans Act which is administered by the Minnesota Board on Aging and the Area Agency on Aging.

Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota traces its history to 1865 when the Rev. Eric Norelius and his congregation near Red Wing took in four orphaned children. Today, Lutheran Social Service, with 2,400 employees and 10,000 volunteers, provides a wide variety of services statewide to children, families, older adults and people with disabilities. The vision of the organization seeks to ensure that all people can live and work in community with safety, dignity and hope. For more information about Senior Nutrition, please visit www.lssmn.org/nutrition

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