Salem Senior Center Goes the Extra Mile

Salem Senior Center Goes the Extra Mile

July 19, 2022 in Agency Spotlight

The Salem Senior Center, a partner of Aging Best, understands the problems of seniors living in social isolation or suffering from poor nutrition and is pioneering new solutions.

Serving nearly 4,000 meals a month, the center uses traditional and non-traditional methods to get meals in front of seniors. That’s important because food-insecure seniors are more likely to have chronic health conditions experiencing diabetes, depression, and congestive heart failure. To ensure they provide nutritious meals for as many adults over 60 as possible, the Salem Senior Center partners with Ozarks Food Harvest. “The need and the cost have increased,” shared Marissa Peterson, Director of Community Options and Services. “Food and distribution are through the roof right now, so when we have Ozarks Food Harvest as a resource, we can care for people the way we need to care for people.”

In addition to a traditional mid-day meal, they also deliver meals at home through their Meals on Wheels program. “When delivering meals, you come to the realization that you bring them meals that will last them the entire week, and they look forward to seeing us. I deliver to a lady that always gives me a hug and tells me that she loves me. Sometimes she cries. It just makes you realize we need to be more active with volunteerism in the community – you never know who might need your assistance in your area,” explained Jody Schaefer, the Lead Center Administrator.

Schaefer went on to tell us about a client who didn’t answer her door for several weeks. They continued to check on her only to realize she was home but couldn’t hear them knocking. The Aging Best team at the Salem Senior Center was able to install a wireless doorbell for her, “She called to thank us today!” She shared that sometimes it is the little differences, like installing doorbells, that improve the quality of life for their seniors.

The senior center appreciates the significant health effects of seniors who live in social isolation. One study compared social isolation in older adults to smoking 15 cigarettes a day because mortality rates can increase by 26% – 32%.

Peterson, always looking for an innovative approach to keeping her seniors engaged, found a great opportunity when the Dent County Health Department was looking for summer feeding sites for youth in their county. She opened the Senior Center up as a summer feeding site for children in need. For her, it was about the “inter-generational interactions,” Peterson said, “It’s so natural, healthy, and great for the community. The seniors were excited! They were making games and everything for the kids.” Giving back to your community creates a sense of purpose, which is a benefit for anyone, no matter their age.

We’re proud to partner with such an innovative group of thoughtful people serving seniors in the Ozarks!