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Craving Companionship: Recipe contest helps revive family mealtimes for local seniors

Almost every family has a favorite recipe that has stood the test of time – a popular dish with a story of its own that draws rave reviews from the generations.

The local Home Instead Senior Care® office is encouraging family caregivers to dig into the family recipe box to find that dish, and prepare and share a meal with their senior loved one.

Then enter that recipe and the story about what makes the dish so special in the Homemade MemoriesSM Recipe Contest between July 15 and September 15, 2011. The contest is part of the Craving Companionship program at, launched to help seniors stay connected socially and eat more nutritiously. Home Instead Senior Care network research has discovered that seniors' biggest mealtime challenge is lack of companionship*.

"Many seniors need help planning and preparing nutritious meals," said Jeanne McCusker, owner of the Home Instead Senior Care office serving Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa and Nelson Counties. "But that's only part of the story. Research reveals that seniors who live alone want good-tasting, nutritious food and stimulating conversation when they share home-cooked meals with family and friends."

The program offers family caregivers tips and practical advice to encourage companionship and easy healthy meals. For more details about the contest including guidelines and prizes, visit Selected recipes and stories will be posted online as well as in the Homemade MemoriesSM Cookbook that will be available for purchase in time for the 2011 holiday season. Proceeds will go to the non-profit Home Instead Senior Care Foundation to benefit North American seniors.

Craving Companionship is geared to helping families support a nutritiously vulnerable population – older adults who live alone. In the United States, approximately 40 percent of the population age 75 and older – 6.7 million people – lives alone, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The Craving Companionship program and contest are incentives for families to find time to help their loved ones prepare the foods they've always loved and enjoy those dishes with them. "Who likes to eat alone? Nobody," said Sandy Markwood, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a), expert source for the Craving Companionship program whose members coordinate the popular home-delivered meals program, also known as "Meals On Wheels®."

"We share the Home Instead Senior Care mission to help older adults live with confidence at home for as long as possible by providing the support they need. Because when a senior is isolated, it's indicative of bigger challenges that person could be facing."

Two of five seniors who live alone (44 percent) have at least four warning signs of poor nutritional health**. According to Home Instead Senior Care network research, the most common of these warning signs and their incidence rates are:

  • Eating alone most of the time (76 percent)
  • Taking three or more different medications a day (71 percent)
  • Eating few fruits, vegetables or milk products (46 percent)
  • Having an illness/condition that prompted a change in diet (31 percent)
  • Not always being physically able to shop, cook or feed themselves (25 percent)

"Home Instead Senior Care research shows that 59 percent of seniors who live alone say they eat more nutritiously when family and friends are around," Jeanne McCusker said. "They really enjoy having that connection with someone, whether it's a family caregiver or a professional CAREGiverSM."

*The Home Instead Senior Care network completed 600 telephone interviews with seniors age 75 and older in the U.S. who live alone in their own homes or apartments. The sampling error is +/-4.0% at a 95% confidence level.

**The warning signs of poor nutritional health were previously identified and published by the Nutrition Screening Initiative.