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Congregate Meals Dining Hall


Congregate Meals at Senior Centers

 

Congregate meal programs provided at senior centers offer several benefits. As the name suggests, a congregate meal program provides nutritious meals to people in a group setting. Most congregate meal programs are for people 60 and above. Most programs are free of charge but give people the opportunity to make a small donation. Most programs ask for a small donation of under $3 per meal. The typical congregate meal program offers activities during the meal such as games, light exercise, and informative guest speakers.

Congregate meals have the following benefits for people who participate:

Sense of Community

People who regularly participate in congregate meals feel a sense of community and connection with their peers. Research shows that people at any age are much more fulfilled when they are part of a group.

Decrease of Alzheimer’s and Dementia

Socializing as little as 30 minutes per day has been shown to increase brain health and cognitive ability that decreases the likelihood of brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. It’s the old adage of use it or lose it.

Purpose

Seniors with a sense of purpose are happier, more fulfilled and healthier. Congregate meals give seniors a daily activity to look forward to. The social interaction provides an environment where peer to peer interaction takes place that leads to seniors becoming emotionally vested in the group. Seniors are able to contribute to other people’s lives on an individual and group basis leading to a great sense of purpose.

Positive Relationships Leading to Happiness

Healthy relationships formed during congregate meal times have been proven to decrease stress and loneliness. Negative emotions such as stress have been linked to high instances of sickness and disease because they cause the body to release cortisol that eventually breaks down the immune system. Stress has been directly linked to high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.

Healthy Nutrition

Many seniors suffer from malnutrition because of unhealthy, unbalanced meals. Congregate meal plans are always hot and nutritious and meet nutritional standards. Seniors who come for the great conversation and activities will also get a well-balanced and great tasting meal.

Decrease in Stress

Congregate meal programs provide participants with a sense of structure that leads to a reduction in stress. Seniors tend to thrive on routine and structure. The best life for an elderly person one is one that is predictable and stable. Seniors who live in unpredictable environments live in fear and are far more insecure. Fear and insecurity cause elevated levels of stress that is deadly to emotional and physical well-being. When stress is reduced the body’s systems function better, particularly the immune system.

A congregate meal program provides a sense of stability for the senior. They can count on going to the program and having their physical and emotional needs met which brings about a great sense of satisfaction.

Increased Cognitive Function

Congregate meal programs offer multiple ways for seniors to mentally engage. There’s great conversation, engaging activities, and helpful speakers who discuss relevant subject matter relating to seniors. All of this activity forces the senior to utilize their minds and keep them active. Research shows that seniors that have low mental stimulation lose cognitive ability because their brains’ synapses and dendrites actually lose the ability to function which leads to decreased cognitive function.

As you can see there are several benefits of congregate meal programs at senior centers. The emotional and physical benefits these programs provide have a real impact on the seniors who participate in them.

Senior Citizens enjoying Congregate Meals Breakfast
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. 8/10/11

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