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Eating healthy becomes especially important as you age. Parkway Place, a faith-based senior living community, recently created “Wellness University” to help residents better understand the nutritional value and benefits of specific foods. The educational and interactive class is held once a month and focuses on an individual food item during each session. The goal is for residents to learn what foods they should eat to maintain a healthy diet. The senior living community is going in alphabetical order to select the topic each month. For example, in the first class residents learned about avocados and sampled guacamole. The second class was on blueberries, and residents tried a blueberry parfait. For July, residents will learn about vitamin C. Chef Derone Martin uses fresh ingredients in the class and shows residents easy recipes that will make an impact on their health.

“We’ve had a blast during the first two classes, and I can tell residents want to learn the benefits of different foods,” said Chef Martin. “We can’t stop aging, but we can stay healthy, and the first step toward good health in older adults is eating right. Each class is about 30 minutes long, so we want to show simple but effective recipes for seniors. We want to talk about the good fats, which helps lower cholesterol, the importance of antioxidants and much more. Even though it is a class, we still get to have a lot of fun. We like to see the residents interact with each other, ask questions and let us know what they’re interested in learning more about. Food is a major part of our lives, and I am thankful I get to share my interests and skills with seniors to promote healthy living.”

The class not only promotes a healthy diet, but socialization among residents. Older adults with a fulfilling social life tend to avoid many of the physical, cognitive and emotional difficulties that other seniors encounter. Studies show that seniors who stay socially active and engaged experience a variety of benefits, including better cognitive function and greater self-esteem.

“I wanted to create a class that was engaging for residents,” said Linda Fitzhugh, director of resident engagement. “Everyone enjoys food and likes talking about it, so I knew it was the perfect fit. We treat it like a real college course but with lots of jokes and laughs. I take roll at the beginning of each class, and we wear graduation caps as we present to the residents. While aging is linked to a variety of changes, nutrient-rich foods can help keep seniors healthy as they age, and that’s why we highlight the individual foods each month. I do a lot of research before each class so we give residents the important benefits and nutritional values of each item. I am excited to grow the class and show residents that eating healthy can be fun and delicious.”

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