by Tom Barnes, 4th Year RN Student –
A fresh take on a popular program is taking root on the Peninsula in a bid to improve seniors’ health and wellness. The community-driven Good Food Box Program has been widely successful throughout the capital region and has expanded its organic produce program to include the Saanich Peninsula. “We are reaching out to our neighbours,” said Deb Greenway, the Better at Home Coordinator with Beacon Community Services. The Sidney-based seniors organization has partnered with the Fernwood Community Centre, hoping to reach isolated or vulnerable seniors having difficulty accessing fresh and healthy produce. While the program is available to everyone, the target audience is seniors living alone at home with little in the way of support from family and friends, or those who are living with cognitive or mobility challenges and are unable to visit the grocery store on a regular basis. “It really goes a long way in identifying the needs of others. These are the people we are trying to reach,” says Deb.
Louise and David Lovett were among the first to get involved with the program and say that as they age, they recognize the vital role proper nutrition plays in maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle. “We plan on living to 100 so we think it is a great idea and so far we’ve been very happy with what we’ve received,” say the Central Saanich couple, who note that the cost of buying produce through the food box program ends up being a better deal than buying from the store. “It is good value and good quality,” they add.
Almost half of Canadian seniors admitted to hospital arrive showing signs and symptoms of malnourishment, according to Cara Brighton, home and community care dietician with Island Health. Cara says maintaining proper nutrition in the later stages of life is “incredibly vital” in maintaining overall health, noting poor diet contributes to a host of other health challenges among the senior population through a heightened risk of infection from a compromised immune system, increased frailty leading to more falls and fractures, longer hospital stays and the need for more supports at home. “Family and care givers,” Cara adds, “should be aware of the causes of malnutrition and seek help.” Sudden weight loss, self-feeding difficulty, isolation, stress and swallowing difficulties are some of the more common causes of malnutrition with seniors, and the produce box program is a positive step towards maintaining health and wellbeing. “Many residents are not able to get out to purchase fresh foods or cannot afford the increasing cost of produce. This program offers bulk purchasing to help lower the cost of these items,” Cara says.
Meanwhile, Deb says it is difficult to estimate the number of seniors living in isolation or who are at risk of malnutrition. However, given the Peninsula’s growing senior population and looking at how well the program has been used in other areas of the region, it’s likely there is a significant number of people living at risk. While addressing the nutritional needs of seniors is the thrust behind bringing the program to the Peninsula, Deb says her organization is also using it as an opportunity to reach out to vulnerable seniors and to inform people of the raft of other services Beacon offers aimed at providing social outlets for seniors to interact with peers and engage in their community.
For more information call Beacon Community Services at 250-656-5537.