COA’s nutrition programs help elderly live independently

Posted 5/17/19

Nutrition is always important, but even more imporant as we age. That’s the message from Chatham County’s Council on Aging. This week, we speak with Melanie Girard, the COA’s Development & …

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COA’s nutrition programs help elderly live independently

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Nutrition is always important, but even more imporant as we age. That’s the message from Chatham County’s Council on Aging. This week, we speak with Melanie Girard, the COA’s Development & Communications Director, about the COA’s nutritional programs and other related activities. Girard has been with the council since 2016. She’s a 1991 graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill’s School of Media and Journalism and has been a Realtor since 1999, owning and operating Grapevine Realty Services since 2011. She and her husband, Carl “Chip” Anderson, have two children and three cats. Girard also performs in the band “Whatsherface” with Beth Turner.

Why is good nutrition so important for seniors, and why does the Chatham COA work so hard on that?

As a non-profit, the council’s mission is to promote independent living and physical and mental wellness among Chatham’s older population. Our nutrition program is a large piece of that puzzle. The council helps older adults at risk of malnutrition and social isolation to eat a nutritious meal and enjoy the company of others through Meals on Wheels, congregate/senior center meals, and frozen and shelf-stable meals. From nutrition surveys we learn that all (100 percent) of Meals on Wheels recipients report that the program has helped them and they would recommend it to friends. Nearly all say it is helping them remain at home and feel that their health has improved due to their participation. Good nutrition also improves or maintains their strength and helps them with such activities of daily living as bathing, getting dressed, toileting, and transferring. All of these benefits delay or avoid a senior being placed in a facility.

Many local restaurants participated in the COA’s local Dine Out-Give Back program. How did that turn out?

We sincerely thank the restaurants and their patrons for making Dine Out Give Back a success. They raised $3,500 toward our goal and we look forward to including other businesses next year.

The 17th annual March for Meals was a month-long, nationwide celebration of Meals on Wheels and our senior neighbors who rely on the vital service to remain health and independent at home. In awareness of senior hunger, more than 20 area restaurants participated in the Dine Out Give Back fundraiser by donating a portion of their of sales during a day in March to the Council’s Meals on Wheels program.

The annual March for Meals celebration commemorates the historic day in March of 1972 when President Nixon signed into law a measure that amended the Older Americans Act of 1965 to include a national nutrition program for seniors 60 years and older. Since 2002, community-based Meals on Wheels programs from across the country have joined forces for the annual awareness campaign to celebrate this successful public-private partnership and garner the support needed to fill the gap between the seniors served and those still in need.

Locally, participating restaurants included Mediterranean Deli, Papa Johns, Dry Dock Seafood Restaurant, Compadres of Siler City and Pittsboro, Root Cellar of Pittsboro, Bojangles of Siler City, Brownie Lu’s, Subway of Powell Place, Pickle Jar Cafe, Al’s Diner, Mama Dips, The Mod, Highway 55 Burgers-Pittsboro, Pittsboro Roadhouse, Subway of Cole Park Plaza, House of Hops, Angelina’s Kitchen, Greek Kouzina and Oasis Market.

Next year we plan to expand the Dine Out-Give Back awareness campaign to include retail establishments along with the restaurants. Chatham residents can help by eating at the participating restaurants in March or donating at participating retail stores.

Can you talk about recreational activities you help provide at your centers in Pittsboro and Siler City?

Our senior centers have many activities, clubs, and opportunities for socialization and recreation. Through our Health Promotion and Wellness Program, we offer such evidence-based activities like A Matter of Balance, Arthritis Foundation Exercise and Aquatic Exercise, Tai Chi, and Living Healthy with Chronic Disease Self Management classes. Both centers offer daily exercise opportunities and each center has a fitness room. Currently we are near the end of this year’s Senior Games & SilverArts with more than 250 participants enjoying more than 17 sports activities and multiple art categories. Practice for these games extends year-round. We have hiking, photography, book club and art groups. In addition, we offer line dance, lunch bunch, trips to the farmer’s market, travelers club, wood carving, and 3Gs men’s group that meets at 8:30 a.m. on Thursdays in Pittsboro with coffee, breakfast snack, corn hole and socializing.

Our council no longer charges any fees for many of these activities in order to encourage active participation and promote good health, but we certainly invite donations to help sustain and expand these activities.

Let’s switch gears to education — what education opportunities does the COA provide?

We partner with outside groups that come to the centers for education on health, nutrition, Medicare, financial fraud and much more. N.C. Cooperative Extension of Chatham, Legal Aid, Sheriff’s Office, and Chatham Health Department are just a few to present.

On November 14, the Council, in partnership with Extension Service, will host the 3rd Senior Education Conference at the Chatham County Agriculture and Conference Center, which is a day-long event with 15 educational break-out sessions, a plenary speaker and lunch. The plenary speaker will be Dr. David Casarett, professor of Medicine at Duke University, the Chief of Palliative Care in Duke Health, and the Director of the Duke Center for Palliative Care. He will present on medical marijuana and CBD oil. Stay tuned for more information on our website; it will surely be thought-provoking.

On May 30 at the Western Center, we will host “Fighting Back against Fraud” in honor of Elder Abuse Awareness which runs from Mother’s Day to Father’s Day. The public is welcome to join us to hear from N.C. Dept. of Justice, N.C. Dept. of Insurance and the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office about types of scams and fraud that target seniors. Topics will include internet, sweepstakes, lottery, home repairs, phone and telemarketing scams, reverse mortgages and Medicare fraud. The event is scheduled from 9:30 a.m. until noon.

What upcoming fundraisers are you having and why do you have to have them?

The Council on Aging has been an independent, non-profit since 1974, and in July we will begin celebrating 45 years as Chatham County’s main portal of entry to senior services. While the council receives funding from the county, state and federal governments, we are not a county department, therefore we must still raise a portion of our funding from private grants, donations, sponsorships and fundraising events. These non-governmental funds are especially important to our general operations. About 85 percent of our funds go directly to services, a higher percentage than many non-profits.

Coming up this summer, we’ll have a raffle; prizes include a time-share for a week in Myrtle Beach at the Hilton Grand Vacations Club at Anderson Beach Club and cash prizes, too.

For the month of September, we will hold an on-line auction and are currently looking for donations like trips, time shares, tickets, services, gift baskets, Air B&B or art.

We can process one-time and recurring donations on our website at We are also grateful for receiving memorial donations and donations made through people’s wills. It’s extremely important for our community to contribute to the council so we can provide as many services and programs as possible for the rapidly growing, aging population in Chatham. Please contact me at 919-542-4512 or for more information or to serve as a fundraising volunteer.

For a complete list of activities, go to and click on the calendar or come to our centers. Our locations: Eastern Chatham Senior Center,365 Hwy. 87 N., Pittsboro. Phone: 919-542-4512. Western Chatham Senior Center, 112 Village Lake Rd., Siler City. Phone: 919-742-3975.


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