Have you or an elder loved one thought about participating in a community meal program? Are you nervous about attending for the first time by yourself? Do you have some doubts about the food quality? I had the opportunity to participate in the hot lunch program at the North Olmsted Senior Center this week and, if you have ever had these concerns, I thought you might benefit from learning about my experience.
The North Olmsted Senior Center offers hot lunches year round on Tuesdays and Thursdays through a grant from the Ohio Department of Aging. While I arrived promptly for lunch, I was one of the last to enter. Apparently, everyone likes to gather early to chat. There were approximately 70 people in the room, the majority of whom were women, ages 70- to 90-years-old. A few caregivers, both professional and family, were also in attendance. Spirited conversation filled the air as I was seated at a table with a lovely group of seniors, including Marge* and Jessie, two “regulars,” Calvin and his wife, Sue, and Stan, who was also attending the lunch for the first time.
The event began with some brief announcements about upcoming activities. Newcomers were heartily welcomed and we sang Happy Birthday to those with birthdays in July. As volunteers distributed milk and bananas, our table was quickly called to pick up our lunch. The menu of the day consisted of glazed pork, carrots, peas, and a whole wheat roll. Since I am not yet 60-years-old, I was not able to partake, but everyone raved about the food. During the meal, Stan and Marge learned they had several mutual friends, Jessie shared tips for making a delicious, single-serving rhubarb crumble in the microwave, and Calvin was eagerly recruiting us to attend an upcoming Senior Center function at the Racino. Several jokes and funny stories were exchanged and an outside observer would think the group at Table Six was made up of old friends, rather than of new acquaintances.
Toward the end of the meal, as volunteers began to clean up, Marge pulled me aside to share that she didn’t come for the food. Rather, she said, “I come for the companionship.” She explained that she was lonely after her husband of 40+ years passed away, so she decided to become involved at the Senior Center. Looking around the room filled with World War II veteran hats and colorfully decorated walkers, I imagined others shared in Marge’s desire for social opportunities and it made me happy to know we have such resources for elders in our community.
After the lunch, some people went across the hall to watch a movie, while others gathered to play cards or left to run the day’s errands. Overall, it was a highly entertaining experience and, as I drove back to the office, I found myself smiling and wishing I was of an age at which I could regularly participate in the meal.
North Olmsted Senior Center was so welcoming and very well-organized. If you are in need of a community meal, either for nutritional purposes or for an opportunity to make new friends, take a trip to North Olmsted and check out their offerings. Like me, you’ll be glad you did.
Free community meals are regularly offered at a variety of locations around Northeast Ohio, including:
John Knox Church
25200 Lorain Road, North Olmsted
- Last Tuesday of each month, 5:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m. Look for Legal Assistant Kim Tunney, who volunteers there.
All Saints Lutheran Church
7230 Columbia Road, Olmsted Falls
- Wednesdays, 6:00 p.m. – 6:45 p.m.
Noble Road Presbyterian Church
2780 Noble Road, Cleveland Heights
- Fourth Sunday of each month at 11:30 a.m.
If these locations are not convenient for you, contact your local senior center or faith-based organization to learn more about their community meal offerings.
*Participant names have been changed.
- Posted by Jill Fowler