On June 28, 2023, Age Friendly Seattle held their monthly Civic Coffee—fully in person at the Greenwood Senior Center after one year of hybrid events. The panelists, Dorothy Nguyen, a registered dietitian from Sound Generations’ Meals on Wheels and Community Dining programs, and Laura Matter, the Natural Yard Care program director for Tilth Alliance, discussed the topic of gardening and nutrition.
As we age, our body and diet change and require different needs to stay nutritionally healthy. The AARP article, “What Should Your Diet Be Like After 50?” highlights that, over the course of our life and more critically after age 50, it is important to implement conscious eating habits that maintain a healthy and active lifestyle to prepare our bodies for the natural changes that occur as we age. Some of these eating habits include having at least one source of protein for every meal, consuming foods that contain calcium, and checking the labels of food to eliminate excess sugars and sodium.
Diet is a factor that changes as we age. This is due to a variety of reasons, like becoming less active, changing ability to absorb nutrients, and barriers to eating a healthy and balanced diet. For this reason, Meals on Wheels provides weekly meals that are delivered to participants’ houses. This program is available to those who are King Country residents aged 60 or older who face difficulties such as shopping for groceries and cooking their own meals.
Dorothy Nguyen said that she checks the ingredients and nutrition of the meals offered to make sure that they are nutritionally balanced and healthy to support a well-balanced diet, with a choice of breakfast, lunch, and dinner menu options. Vegetarian, vegan, low-sodium, and kosher meals are available upon request. To apply for Meals on Wheels, use the online application or print a paper application and mail it to their office in downtown Seattle. Note: Due to high demand and limited funding, currently there is a waitlist.
Tilth Alliance is a nonprofit organization that works in partnership with Washington farmers and gardeners to build a sustainable, healthy, and equitable food system. Prioritizing the environment and its future is at the core of their practices. Their organization offers various opportunities for the community to learn about gardening, inspires participants to grow their own food, and offers opportunities for communities to eat locally from various farmers markets.
Implementing a well-balanced diet is important at every age, and crucial as we get older. Laura mentioned that gardening is a great hobby and a great way to grow your own produce while engaging in physical activity. Gardening engages the whole body, which can be challenging for those with physical limitations. Laura mentioned modifications that can reduce the physical impact of gardening, including raised garden beds that require less bending over, planting in containers instead of in the ground, and using timers to water plants. She says that creating a gardening system that is simple, open, and elevated is key to maintaining a garden without the physical demands.
Laura said one misconception about gardening is that you need a large back yard, but realistically, you can grow plants in many places, including the porch or patio and in a kitchen window. You can even grow herbs and some vegetables inside of your own home. Microgreens are one example—easy to grow indoors and high in nutrients. Another option for your indoor garden is herbs—like basil, chamomile, oregano, dill, and fennel—as long as the plants are exposed to light. Herbs are easy to grow and offer nutritional benefits. Dorothy mentioned that herbs are a great source of antioxidants and promote flavor without the need for salt.
At this Civic Coffee, both panelists emphasized that, as we age, there will be limitations to the food we eat and the physical activities we can perform but, with moderation, there are countless ways that we can still eat what we love and do the hobbies we enjoy.
Thank you to the Greenwood Senior Center for hosting the June 28 Civic Coffee and to the participants who engaged in conversation about gardening and holistic eating. The event was video recorded for those who were unable to attend in person.
Age Friendly Seattle Civic Coffees are scheduled monthly. Stay connected by visiting the events webpage, Facebook events, Aging King County’s Age Friendly Live—Virtual Events webpage, and the Aging King County calendar. Be sure to follow Age Friendly Seattle on Facebook and Twitter.
Contributor Fathima Garcia is an intern with Age Friendly Seattle. She is a recent Seattle Central College graduate with an associate degree in business administration. Starting this fall, she will study Human Resources Management at the University of Washington Foster School of Business.