Home Instead encouraging meals with companions

Sep. 24—Home Instead is working to combat isolation and loneliness among seniors by pushing out its "Companionship Diet" program, encouraging community members to engage with seniors in their lives during meal times.

The program is being rolled out nationwide through Home Instead facilities to provide resources to communities on healthy, nutritious recipes and tips for seniors and their families.

The Companionship Diet, according to Stephen Bryson, local franchise owner of Home Instead in Owensboro, is meant to encourage healthy lifestyles for seniors while also encouraging families and caregivers to be more mindful of the seniors in their lives, especially how often they are eating and what they are eating.

"Right now, especially during this pandemic, seniors have always struggled with feelings of loneliness and depression, and with the lockdown and reduced time for visits and those kinds of things, it makes that even worse, especially for the senior population," Bryson said.

The goal, he said, is to spread the word amongst Home Instead clients, families and caregivers, as well as the general community.

Bryson said Home Instead performed a nationwide study recently that found seniors who eat most of their meals alone are twice as likely to experience depression and loneliness. Additionally, he said, seniors who experience feelings of loneliness and isolation were found to skip four more meals per week than those who eat with companions.

Thus, he said, the home care franchise developed the Companionship Diet to help in combating isolation.

"We're certainly encouraging families to sit down and eat with their senior loved one," he said. "In today's world, where families are very spread out, we see lots of families where sons and daughters have moved to other states and other locations, so geography makes it impossible to sit down together, so that's where we really encourage visitors, neighbors, churches, or, in our case, caregivers, to not only sit down with the senior, but also engage the senior in making the meal and sharing the meal with them."

Bryson said sharing meals with companions not only enhances a senior's lifestyle, but also their mental and emotional well-being.

This is especially important, he said, with the upcoming holidays and winter season, as people are more likely to remain indoors for longer periods of time.

"It's more important than ever," he said. "With COVID and the fall coming along ... and people being a little more shut in is probably more likely than not, so this is a really good time to encourage people to visit and check in on their seniors."

Christie Netherton, cnetherton@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7360