Using innovation to improve food security, social isolation and physical activity
An estimated 33% of adults aged 65 or older have diabetes and many more are at risk for getting the disease 1. Older adults may also have more severe complications including heart, kidney and peripheral vascular diseases. In addition, many people living in rural areas have difficulty accessing health care, may have a greater risk of social isolation and may not consume as many fruits and vegetables as people in urban areas do.
To address the needs of older adults living in rural areas of the Eastern Shore, the Maryland Living Well Center of Excellence, a Division of MAC, Inc. Area Agency on Aging, developed 'Healthier You', an innovative program that couples fresh vegetable provision with evidence-based programming and opportunities for social interaction.
It is one of the best things I’ve done since I retired. The longer you stay active, the better off you are.
-Male Participant, married 51 years
The Approach Older low-income adults living in rural Maryland were recruited through local newspaper ads, flyers, and physician referrals. The program participants were screened for food insecurity, social isolation/depression, and obesity. Program Participants received weekly boxes of organically grown vegetables and recipes. The low impact Enhance Fitness program was provided virtually and in-person 3 days per week for six months. Each person received a loaner 5G to access virtual Enhance Fitness and a scale to track their weight loss. Many program participants were unwilling to attend in-person Enhance Fitness because they were embarrassed about their weight
Healthy foods, especially vegetables, are often not available to low-income individuals. In addition, they may never have had the opportunity to try new vegetables. Providing tips on preparation and recipes encouraged participants to explore new foods. The weekly vegetable pick-up became the place for participants to share their own recipes, as well as how they were doing with weight loss goals. As individuals lost weight by attending virtual Enhance Fitness and changing to a healthier diet, they became more confident about joining the in-person sessions.
The Results 60 participants enrolled in the 6-month Healthier You program. From pre-test to –post-test 96% of participants lost weight, with an average of 11.5 pounds lost. The Healthier You participants formed their own new network of friends and many of them are now ‘regulars' at senior center and other local events.
To learn more, contact Sue Lachenmayr, firstname.lastname@example.org or 908-797-5650