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November 14, 2023
Older Adult Meal Program Helping Seniors Forge Social Connections
Ask the seniors who avail themselves of the Older Adult Meal Program at St. Luke’s why they keep coming back and you’ll hear a number of motivations: convenience, healthy food, and great value.
Retired Dietz & Watson salesman John Hardock is convinced it is all those reasons and more. “I think we really enjoy the company,” he said. “Yes, the food is good and it’s nutritious, and I have no problem cooking for myself— I’ve been in the meat industry for years. But for me, coming here means I’m not eating at home, alone. We are sitting around a table, having supper, and having conversation. It’s really something I look forward to.”
Most Thursday evenings at St. Luke’s Anderson Campus in Bethlehem Township, John joins friends Herman Gross, a retired general manager for East Penn Eye Associates, James Lalley, a retired contract coordinator for the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, and Lothar Gumberich, a former leader of management training programs for Penn State in Reading and in the Lehigh Valley.
The group of four gentlemen met when their late spouses were seeking medical treatment at St. Luke’s and continued meeting when some of them joined a grief support group. “We sort of met right here and struck up conversations,” James said. “We were all going through the same thing at the time, so we decided to stay in touch and made a habit of coming by every Thursday.”
Herman adds, “I always look forward to the camaraderie that I share with the three other fellows. I also appreciate the upbeat employees behind the food counter and at the register for always making the dinner experience enjoyable and comfortable for all of us.”
The foursome continued to meet during COVID-19, avoiding the sense of isolation that impacted so many. They enjoyed healthy meals while talking about current events, politics, and their social lives. “Sometimes, we reminisce about our late spouses and the things that remind us of them,” Herman said.
Whatever the topic of conversation, the meals are enjoyed in a warm and welcoming environment, surrounded by other seniors and their family members. The Older Adult Meal Program—which is open to the entire community—is offered weekdays at various St. Luke’s campuses including Anderson. The cost at the Anderson Campus is only $3.99 a person (for those 65 and over) and includes entrée, salad, side dish, vegetable, dessert, and a 12-ounce drink. All the meals are prepared fresh daily and many of the ingredients are grown at St. Luke’s Rodale Institute Organic Farm, a 14-acre area that produces 70 varieties of 30 types of produce.