Program helps elderly stay healthy

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By John Barnhart

Isolation and nutrition can be problems for elderly people. The Central Virginia Area Agency on Aging (CVAAA) Senior Services oversees three sites in Bedford County to extend a helping hand.

One site is in Montvale, another in Moneta and a third in a portion of the old county nursing home off Falling Creek Road. All of them provide hot lunches three times a week.

According to Fran Viemeister, the site manager at the Falling Creek Road site, all the others use frozen meals that they reheat. Her site gets fresh meals because Goode's Country Kitchen, located only a few miles away, provides them at a reduced price.

"They give it to us nice and hot," Viemeister said.

Meals are served on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays. The site also delivers home-based meals to 60 people.

These are the hot meals. Viemeister said that they store boxed meals, rotating the stock on a first-in-first-out basis. These allow them to deliver two meals when a holiday falls on a delivery day. They also serve as emergency meals. Viemeister said that, in the winter, they give six box meals to folks on the delivery list to keep at home as a precaution against bad weather.

The number on this home delivery list is the maximum that they can accommodate. The need is greater.

"There is a waiting list now," said Viemeister.

The nutrition site provides more than a hot meal three times a week. Every month, Annie Jenkins, a nutrition expert from Bedford's Virginia Tech Extension Service, comes in to provide information on healthy eating. This month, she taught about fruit and vegetables, teaching people what to look for when grocery shopping.

"Each month, we add to our collection," said Sallie Rice, showing a folder with the information sheets she's collected from the extension service.

These three sites, open from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. provide opportunities for elderly people to get exercise and participate in activities. Viemeister said that the goal is to get them out of the house and provide fun, healthy activities for them to do.

This month, they all went to Lynchburg for a Christmas party. CVAAA bused in people from 55 different sites and the party included lunch, Christmas carols and a visit by a bunch of third graders.

Viemeister said that her site has third grade pen pals. The elderly folks and the children correspond with CVAAA acting as the intermediary. The Falling Creek Road site's pen pals are from Tomahawk Elementary School in Campbell County. The school sent a group photo of the third graders and the children send items that they make in class.

"We made them Christmas cards and Thanksgiving cards," Viemeister said.

Viemeister plans outings when good weather returns in the spring. She has a professional driver's license and permission from Bedford Ride to use one of its vans. A volunteer will help her on each of these trips.

For more information on the nutrition centers in the Bedford area, call CVAAA at (434) 385-9070.