Age Well: New American Community Meals

Age Well

2020 Update: 

Age Well’s New American Community Meals provide weekly culturally and nutritionally appropriate meals for Chittenden County elder New Americans. While nutritional needs are an important focus of our services, the overall objective is to bring Bhutanese elders and American seniors, all of whom have vast differences in life and experience, together under one roof, and provide a space where all feel welcome, safe and engaged.

Isolation among older adults is an issue nationally and here in Vermont. It is especially common for older New Americans due to the language barrier. The weekly community meals Age Well provides in Burlington and Winooski provide important nutrition, socialization, and connection to other services for attendees.

Because of City Market’s Seedling Grant, we are able to provide over 1,900 culturally and nutritionally appropriate meals. Additionally through the meals, participants are connected to our New American Care & Service Coordination team who provide tailored one-on-one services to help them age well.

From Namgay Dema Sherpa, Age Well Nutrition Coordinator:

"The New American Community Meal program has been so successful in making a difference in the life of many older New Americans. These meals offer an opportunity for New Americans to meet people that are both their age and from the same cultural background an opportunity not otherwise available to them. I hear from the participants how much they look forward to each week’s meal and the escape from isolation it provides.

Traditionally in Nepali culture, as people grow older, they socialize with other elders. This has been difficult after leaving their home countries and established social networks. The New American Community Meals have helped recreate such an atmosphere for them where they can talk, share, and enjoy a traditional meal. The program is very appreciated by the New Americans and the continuation of this program means a lot to all who participate.”

Grant Amount: $2,500

Since 1974, Age Well has provided support and services that allow seniors to stay independent, and remain healthy at home. They excel at integrating community resources, health services, and wellness programs to enhance and improve quality of life for all seniors in Northwestern Vermont. Age Well offers care & service coordination; Meals on Wheels; community meals; wellness programs; social activities; transportation services; expertise on Medicare, insurance, and long and short-term care options; and a helpline to Vermonters over 60. Their mission is to provide the support and guidance that inspires our community to embrace aging with confidence.

Age Well’s New American Community Meals program provides weekly nutrition programs for Chittenden County elder New Americans consisting of culturally and nutritionally appropriate meals. While nutritional needs are an important focus of proposed services, the overall objective is to bring Bhutanese elders and American seniors, all of whom have vast differences in life and experience, together under one roof, and provide a space where all feel welcome, safe and engaged. An Age Well Community Meals Program Manager, from the Bhutanese community, will oversee each site and be onsite for all meals, including on-site interpretive services. This is an ongoing project and Seedling Grant funding from City Market will help fund the raw food costs.

Partners in this collaborative include AALV, an Engagement Coordinator, and UVM’s Connecting Cultures.

As a part of the Federal Refugee Resettlement Program, thousands of individuals have resettled in the mostly rural Vermont over the years. Nearly 5% of the state’s population are New Americans, hailing mainly from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mexico, and Nepal. Age Well has worked since 2013 to create programs and address the service gap and needs of aging New Americans. They’ve done so by tailoring mainstream aging services and connecting people to supports in the community.

Age Well has focused on enhancing services specifically for elderly refugees so that they may better transition into the general community, live more independently, and successfully age in place. Committed to meeting this increasing need and growing New American population, Age Well provides outreach and translation services to ensure that individuals are connected to their communities, have access to public benefits and are aware of available services.

Weekly community meals have been a cornerstone of these specialized services. The meals not only provide a nutritious and culturally appropriate meal but also offer socialization, Tai Chi, and other engaging activities.