BALTIMORE COUNTY—A new county initiative is using food to help seniors improve not only their physical health but their social health as well.

This is the first year of No Senior Eats Alone Day, a day that the Department of Aging hopes will encourage more senior citizens to participate in new activities, engage with others and improve their well being.

According to the Department of Aging’s website, “lacking social connections is a comparable risk factor for early death as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.”

This may seem daunting, but Mike Hager, director of the Essex Senior Center, says it’s accurate.

“It’s hard to believe but it’s absolutely true,” Hager said. “ We hope our members reach out to neighbors and friends who may be isolated and who are not a member of the center to come and see what the center has to offer.”

The members have done just that. Around 80 people will be attending the Essex Senior Center’s lunch on September 12 at 12 p.m. Hager says that’s the max number of people the center can have.

“It will be a good mix of people who are not as familiar with the center and people who are very familiar with it,” Hager said. “After lunch we have Mr. Karisma performing so it will be a nice afternoon of fun for our members of the community who come in.”

The food provided for the event will be catered by the department of aging’s “Eating Together Meals” which consist of healthy meals that meet one-third of the daily recommended nutrients and are low in sodium and certain fats.

These lunches are provided Monday through Friday at the Essex Senior Center and the lunch on September 12 will be a “special” meal. People can also receive nutrition screenings and participate in annual programs to improve nutritional health and knowledge.

Clara Gould, a member and volunteer of the center said events like the nutritional screenings and No Senior Eats Alone Day are held at the Essex Senior Center all the time.

However, Gould said less people seem to be participating in them.

“I don’t think the people in their 60s are joining the senior center like we did and I don’t know why,” Gould said. “People don’t realize how much goes on at this senior center, it’s amazing. So, I think this No Senior Eats Alone Day may be a really good thing to bring people in.”

Gould’s friend, Pat Cargile, who is also a member and volunteer of the center, said there are many activities to do at the center.

“You don’t have to sit in isolation! We have events like chair yoga and bingo.”

Hager said there are also steps people who are not senior citizens can do to help seniors improve their social life.

“Make sure that you are treating your neighbors well. If you have a senior who lives in your community make sure you are interacting with them as much as they are willing to interact,” Hager said.

Hager also said he hopes more people, especially seniors, stop into the center on 600 Dorsey Avenue.

”I think a lot of people in our community aren’t aware that Baltimore County is offering senior centers, Hager said. “If you have the ability to come in, come in and see what we have to offer. We are always open to people coming in and checking out what we do.”

There are 20 senior centers in Baltimore county that offer opportunities, like the Essex Senior Center, for seniors who wish to meet new people, learn new skills and take care of their well being. Visit the department of aging’s website to access each senior center’s newsletters.

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by AvenueNews.com

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