No. There is not a typo in the title. Here in the shadow of the nation’s capital, where NFESH’s offices are located — just as we imagine is true in large cities, small towns and rural communities across the country – the reminders of Fourth of July celebrations still linger. American flags adorn private residences and government buildings alike, bunting festoons windows and trash receptacles in public parks where fireworks brightened the sky are filled to the brim. “What?” you say? While a reference to refuse might seem more than a bit strange in this blog post, it actually acknowledges the kind of physical evidence that confirms just how important the opportunity to gather together in celebration is to us Americans. If we ever doubted that, a few days ago those of us who joined in festivities, either in person of virtually, saw that fact vividly played out.
In addition to seeing it, it is safe to say, most of us felt it as well. The United States was back to celebrating its independence in the time-honored 4th of July way! But that wasn’t all that was happening, whether we stopped to take stock of it or not. What we experienced, whether we ventured out to public events or we watched and participated virtually, was a joyous acknowledgement of the essential place that interdependence occupies in our lives. Regardless of age, or race, or gender, or geography, we thrive in community. We are interdependent folk and that, as much as national freedom, is something worth celebrating.
Social isolation over the past year has been widespread and, in one way or another, touched us all. Here at NFESH our concerns along with addressing hunger have been on assessing, and working to ameliorate, its impact on seniors. We never stopped focusing on that. And as part of our work we created, distributed, tabulated and now are analyzing literally thousands of surveys that were administered to older Americans who, before the COVID shutdown, had regularly participated in congregate nutrition programs at senior seniors funded in part through the Older Americans Act. We asked them about their access to nutritious food, of course; but we also asked questions related to emotional well-being, and loneliness and whether or not they would return to senior centers when they were fully open again. The findings were both objective and definitive. Senior centers provide critical services: needed nutrition not only for the body but also for the whole person.
All us humans, and particularly socially isolated older persons, need the kind of sustenance that is furnished only through community as much as we need the nutrition supplied in food. As senior centers across the nation begin to reopen to full service, it will truly be something to celebrate. To all involved we say “Happy Interdependence Day”.