Family Room

Visiting lonely seniors and lovely parks

What’s on the plate is not important. Who’s around the table is what counts.

Home Instead Senior Care is encouraging people who live near — or even not so near — their senior loved ones to make time for regular meals together.

Time is the major stumbling block, according to Home Instead, which conducted a random survey of 1,000 households and found that about half admitted to not “sharing enough meals” with senior loved ones who live nearby — leading to the loss of an important family connection. Three-quarters of respondents said they only break bread with senior loved ones on special occasions like holidays and birthdays.

That’s a whole lot of down time in between. Senior isolation is a difficult and multifaceted problem in these hyperactive and scattered times — it can lead to pessimism and depression, health problems and cognitive decline — and it seems especially tragic that isolation can be the status quo when relatives live not so far from one another.

So, Home Instead is asking folks to start — or revive — the mealtime gatherings they enjoyed when life was simpler. Try gathering the whole family around your senior loved one, at least once a month (which seems like so little!).

As incentive, the Home Instead Senior Care Foundation will donate $1 to Meals on Wheels America, for a total of up to $20,000, for each person who pledges to schedule regular family dinners via SundayDinnerPledge.com. That way, Meals on Wheels can help provide some nutrition and connection for seniors citizens who aren’t lucky enough to have family visitors.

“This small commitment can have a big impact on a senior’s well-being,” said Julie Williams, Home Instead’s local president. The pledge deadline is July 31.

Note that the SundayDinnerPledge.com website isn’t just a place to promise to fork over funds; it contains everything you need to ease your way through even a strange and awkward Sunday meal. In addition to menu suggestions and an interactive meal planner, there are meaningful conversation starters, games to play, ways to bond over the family table.

Visit www.SundayDinnerPledge.com or call Home Instead Senior Care at 360-253-6028.

No park left behind
In other leaving-none-behind news, the new executive director of the Parks Foundation of Clark County is on a mission to get familiar with each and every park, trail, greenspace and community center in Clark County. Starting on July 8, Temple Lenz began a 90-day whirlwind tour of every public park in the county.

It’s a little more than she bargained for when she brainstormed the big idea, she said — because, depending on your accounting standards, there are at least 200 parks in Clark County. Closer to 220, actually, Lentz said, when you factor in the unimproved greenspaces, the recreation centers, the sports parks, the “other.”

“I decided to do this before I actually counted them,” Lentz said. “Note to self for future projects. That’s been the biggest surprise, realizing just how many parks and trails we do have.”

You can go along for the ride — from the comfort of your device — and share in Lentz’s journey of discovery. She’s posting photos and comments on the Parks Foundation’s Facebook and Instagram pages (under #90days200parks and Parks of Clark, respectively), and all are welcome to join in the fun with your own photos and comments.

I asked Lentz what her favorite Clark County greenspace might be, and her answer was both prompt and a little unexpected: Leverich Park, a multilayered mishmash of streambed and picnic shelter, disc golf course and, it must be said, homeless folks.

But that’s where Lentz used to spend lots of time with her dog when she was new in town, she said, and it’s a great example of a historic but rundown park — built in 1931 — that got a whole new lease on life thanks to the sort of public-private partnerships she means to pursue in her new gig. Local disc golf clubs and recreation businesses all pitched in to develop the 12-hole course that now reliably draws mobs of players on evenings and weekends. The popularity of the course has completely upended the park’s previous reputation — in this player’s estimation, anyway.

Which got me thinking about my own park passions and the way things change. When my kids were little, our favorite haunts were elementary school playgrounds and big spots like Marshall Park and Esther Short Park — and that swimming hole where Cougar Creek flows into Salmon Creek.

Now that I don’t hang out too much with kiddies on playgrounds anymore — and do spend significant leisure time cycling — my favorite local greenspace is probably the Frenchman’s Bar/Vancouver Lake network and the paved trail that connects them. Or maybe it’s the reopened waterfront trail at the Tidewater Condos, and the awesome jetty that juts into the river there. Or maybe the diverse and picturesque Burnt Bridge Creek Trail.

Or maybe….

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