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Dining to Improve Socialization and Health Program (DISH)

More than ¼ of adults aged 65 and older are considered to be socially isolated. Loneliness and social isolation in older adults is a serious issue putting those at risk of dementia and other serious medical conditions such as:

· high blood pressure;

· heart disease;

· obesity;

· a weakened immune system;

· anxiety;

· depression;

· cognitive decline;

· and even death.

Loneliness, living alone and poor social connections are as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

The agency offers the Dining to Improve Socialization and Health Program (DISH), which is a restaurant-based program where older adults can choose from contracted food providers in the 7-county area to redeem monthly food vouchers. The program offers nutritious meals for older adults but even more so the ability to dine out with others.

A couple on the program used to regularly dine out at one of program’s restaurants. The couple became close to a small group of older adults who also dined in and later planned dates to meet with them at lunch. Unfortunately, the husband of the couple passed away suddenly. As a result, the wife became isolated and depressed. After a few weeks went by, the wife was contacted by one of the lunch group members. The lunch group member stated that they were concerned that they had not heard from the couple. With the friends urging, though hesitant, she returned to meeting up with her friends for lunch. The woman reported that she would have never met this group if her and her husband were not on the program. She further stated that the food is great, however the companionship brought her out of a place of deep depression and taught her to live.

Submitted by: Allison Stehlik, VP of Community Living Services

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