U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen stopped by the Stillaguamish Senior Center to see a lunch program that helps older adults socialize while providing a healthy diet.
Larsen, who represents Washington’s 2nd Congressional District that includes Marysville, Arlington, Tulalip, helped serve lunch to some of the seniors at the center on Jan. 18.
Local nonprofit organization Homage Senior Services and the Stillaguamish Senior Center partner to put on the lunches at the center.
The program is paid in part by donations from seniors and others at the lunch, and in part by federal funding from the Older Americans Act.
The 1965 act is meant to provide a number of services to help older Americans, including disease-prevention, home services, nutrition, caregiver support and elder rights programs, and it continues to be renewed by the modern U.S. Congress, most recently in 2016.
Those funds are not subject to the federal shutdown this year because the renewal covered this year.
“Fortunately the funding is stable for this year, so we’re really lucky,” said Martha Peppones, nutrition and advocacy director at Homage Senior Services.
The biggest thing the meals provide is social stimulation, said Danette Klemens, executive director of the Stillaguamish Senior Center.
“On Fridays for us it’s a great opportunity because we have music before and then a number of people come out and engage. They have this time together in a peer setting,” said Klemens.
“It gets people out and decreases the isolation, which is a huge thing with older adults,” she said.
Peppones said senior isolation is a big problem and providing older adults with spaces to get together is important because of that.
“It’s an opportunity for people to get together and socialize. That’s one of the main reasons this program exists is to get people out,” she said.
“The food is always what draws people in, but the majority of people that come are here because they like to be around other people,” she said.
Homage officials also work to make sure they are able to get fresh fruit and vegetables into the meals as often as possible, said Peppones.
“I like to think that the food is good. We do a lot of work to make sure it meets the dietary needs of older adults,” she said.
Klemens said there are a lot of studies that say healthy eating is one of the best things seniors can do to continue being healthy as they age.
“I think it helps them because it’s a big meal and has all the nutritional requirements, so all they have to plan for is a breakfast and a lighter supper in the evening,” she said.
Eating good meals is also important for many prescriptions, she said.
“With the multiple medications they may be taking, it’s important to be getting a healthy diet,” said Klemens.
The senior center and Homage have been providing the meals for several decades now.
“We’ve been doing the lunches long before I came here,” said Klemens.
“Homage has been providing senior meals in Snohomish County for about 45 years,” said Peppones.
She added that throughout the years of the program it’s helped keep seniors social and active.
“We’re always looking for different ways to jazz it up a little bit, but pretty much this is what people want to do, to come, sit, talk and have a good meal,” she said.
Klemens is thankful for Homage Senior Services' continuing help with the program.
“It’s a wonderful partnership with Homage that helps us serve the senior community,” she said.
Peppones also recognized Larsen for stopping by to help highlight the program.
“We’re just delighted that Rep. Larsen is here and he is a strong supporter of services for older adults,” she said.