In 2005, Hebrew SeniorLife was instrumental in creating and piloting a new evidence-based program for seniors focused on nutrition. The program – Healthy Eating for Successful Living in Older Adults™ – now serves more than 1,000 older adults annually and is available in English, Spanish and Russian.

Healthy Eating teaches older adults about nutrition and how lifestyle changes can promote better health. Based on the USDA MyPlate™, the program includes instruction on label reading and portion control followed by detailed nutrition education on the different food groups as well as fats and sweets. Participants learn goal setting, problem solving and management of dietary patterns, and participate in hands-on activities, including meal preparation and/or a cooking demonstration.

 Hebrew SeniorLife

Healthy Eating workshop participants dine out together

“The program also includes recommendations and support for physical activity in conjunction with sound nutrition practices,” said Jennifer Raymond, director of evidence-based programs for Hebrew SeniorLife. “For participants to be successful, they need to recognize the importance of making changes in their daily lives to incorporate healthy eating and exercise. It’s really a one-step-at-a-time mentality. As individuals accomplish incremental changes, they build a sense of empowerment.”

Participants also attribute the positive impact of the program to the behavior-change support group that forms the core of the program. As a result of changed behaviors and healthier eating habits, participants have reported lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, along with weight loss or weight maintenance.

To reach as many older adults as possible with this program, Hebrew SeniorLife has transitioned its focus over the years from offering workshops directly to disseminating the program statewide. The elder care provider trains councils on aging, senior centers, congregate housing sites, neighborhood health centers, community centers, faith-based organizations and others to deliver the program to seniors in their communities.

Hebrew SeniorLife

Healthy Eating workshop participants watch a cooking demonstration

“In Massachusetts alone, the program is now offered in all 14 counties including 50 percent of cities and towns,” said Raymond. “We’re also seeing demand for the program from outside the Commonwealth. Organizations in 13 other states have conducted Healthy Eating workshops and have participated in our online training sessions.”

Hebrew SeniorLife also offers a Healthy Eating online forum where workshop leaders can stay connected, receive program updates and access resources.

This story was published originally in the Tufts Health Plan Foundation’s May 1, 2013 newsletter.