a0b61123bc7bc48e9295e4596722265cIt’s a well-documented fact that the majority of older adults would prefer to live at home. What you may not know is that nutrition problems are widespread among those who choose to do so.

According to various studies, between 24 and 50 percent of the Medicare population is estimated to be at some level of nutritional risk. Adequate fruit and vegetable intake is a critical part of healthy aging and an important component of treatment for health conditions associated with aging.

According to CMS.gov, 87 percent of Medicaid beneficiaries over the age of 65 have diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol, all of which can be improved by a diet rich in the right fruits and veggies.

Unfortunately, homebound seniors often have limited access to produce with the most protective nutrients and phytochemicals, plant chemicals that have protective or disease-preventive properties.

There are several well-researched interventions to improve the nutrition of seniors.

One of the first is a nutritional screening initiative that is intended to identify and treat nutritional problems in older adults.

At Senior Concerns, when a senior inquires about Meals On Wheels, we visit their home and administer the Mini Nutritional Assessment. This six-question screening helps us to identify if the person is malnourished or at risk for malnourishment.

The MNA was developed nearly 20 years ago and is the most well-validated nutrition screening tool for the elderly. It is available in many languages.

The second intervention is education. Nutrition education can have a significant impact on the senior’s ability to identify portion sizes, choose foods, and use vitamins and supplements to improve their condition.

Lisa Weaver, director of nutrition at Senior Concerns, uses food models to teach seniors and family caregivers about proper diet. Seeing food selections, playing with different food combinations and viewing portion sizes are all good ways to educate seniors about nutrition choices.

Weaver also uses My Plate for Older Adults, which provides food, beverage and physical activity guidance for seniors.

A third intervention is nutritionally balanced home-delivered meals though a program like Meals On Wheels. Research shows that access to nutritionally balanced meals can increase a senior’s overall health, potentially reduce trips to the emergency room and hospitalizations, and allow seniors to live independently longer.

Each year, Senior Concerns holds a fundraiser to bring awareness to the problem of senior hunger in our community. The Love Run on June 7 pays for scholarships for low-income seniors needing Meals On Wheels and funds in-home nutritional assessments and community education.

There are many ways you can help run hunger out of our community.

Sign up to run, walk or donate to the Love Run at www.loverunwestlake.com. This event is geared not only to competitive runners, but also to friends, family and kids who want to join in the fun. Included in the event is a huge expo, kids zone and free pancake breakfast.

Sign up to volunteer at the event at www.volunteerspot.com/ login/entry/1105544514075.

The run is especially in need of course monitors—volunteers who help make participants safe by blocking car access to the course and assisting law enforcement with traffic control.

Course monitors can team up, bring their cheer paraphernalia (think pom-poms and cow bells!) and just put on their “game face.” They get unparalleled access to the course and to the participants, so it’s a great job for family and friends of runners.

Here’s what you or your group will get if you sign up now: a raffle ticket for a chance to win $100 in Roadrunner Sports apparel front row spectator seats to one of Conejo Vallley’s premier races a volunteer shirt a free pancake breakfast community service hour credits

Or you can apply to be a Meals On Wheels driver by contacting Denise at denise@seniorconcerns.org.

Come join this one-of-a-kind community event and help us end senior hunger.

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