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Baltimore County sheds light on social isolation among the elderly

Baltimore County leaders broke bread with older residents, during ‘No Senior Eats Alone Day.’ On the lunch menu at the Bykota Senior Center — mashed potatoes with baked chicken and steamed carrots.

But Lorita Martin, 65, told WYPR she stopped by for more than lunch Thursday afternoon. “I enjoy eating, period. Whatever they have today, I'm good with. Most of all just meeting friends and new people that's what I come for.”

Martin is surrounded by hundreds of her peers, including a new bingo buddy she made recently, at the senior center. Celestine Simon, 65, is a newbie to the center who says attending has improved her outlook on life.

“I have family but they’re scattered,” said Simon who added Martin’s nudging is helping her break out of her shell.

According to the U.S census, about 20% of Baltimore County’s population — roughly 200,000 people — are adults over the age of 60.

In an effort to keep them from experiencing social isolation, the county is serving 1,300 meals at various sites and delivering 78 more, for those who are homebound, on ‘No Senior Eats Alone’ Day.

Robert McCullough, Chief of Police, is one of the county leaders who broke bread on the special occasion. He said the day has special meaning for him.

“My grandmother lived with me until the end of her life,” said McCullough. “She absolutely enjoyed going to the Randallstown Senior Center. She made new friends. She had experiences that quite frankly, she never had in her 100 years of existence.”

Laura Riley, director at the Department of Aging, said she is hoping for such connections. To reach more seniors, the county has partnered with churches, community organizations and a number of restaurants. Riley said 30 restaurants are discounting meals for seniors.

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olzewski served meals alongside police and volunteers on ‘No Senior Eats Alone Day.’ This photo is courtesy of Baltimore County Government.
Photo courtesy of Baltimore County Government
Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olzewski served meals alongside police and volunteers on ‘No Senior Eats Alone Day.’

Riley added that select sites offered kosher and halal options.

“We're open to providing more culturally sensitive meals to any organizations who have an interest,” Riley said. “They can certainly call and partner with us and we'll expand as much as possible.”

After handing out yogurt parfait cups, Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olzewski spoke with WYPR about services his administration is offering to support elderly people in the county.

“Seniors still have so much to offer,” said Olzewski. “We have found ways to engage, promote and support them and we're very proud of that here.”

Wambui Kamau is a General Assignment Reporter for WYPR. @WkThee
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