Regal Heights dietitian Liz Jones looks on as Jill Goodman, Conor Cahalan, and Guthre Lewis give a presentation on the nutritional benefits of fruit and explain the activity to the residents.

Edible arrangements

Discovery learning class brings students into the elder community

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11:49 a.m., Nov. 1, 2013--Orange and purple, red and yellow — the many colors of fresh fruit not only lend themselves to beautiful arrangements on the plate but also contribute to a variety of nutritional needs in the body.

That was the lesson on Monday, Oct. 28, when 20 nutrition and dietetics students from the University of Delaware helped residents at Regal Heights Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center create edible “flower arrangements” out of strawberries, pineapple, grapes, melon, and oranges.

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The activity was part of NTDT350, Nutrition in Older Adults, a discovery learning class taught by Marie Kuczmarski, professor in the Department of Behavioral Health and Nutrition.

The course requires the students, who are all UD seniors, to spend 30 hours during the semester in the community. They’ve been involved with a training program for feeding older adults at a nursing home, Meals on Wheels, and a health fair that will focus on food preparation and mental health issues.

“It’s great for the students to see how the dining experience plays into the social environment at a facility like this,” says Liz Jones, dietitian at Regal Heights and a UD alum. “Meals are the highlight of the day for many of our residents, and having the students here for this activity will be the highlight of their month.” 

The conversations at the tables suggested that Jones was right. While some of the residents were more adept than others at creating fruit-based artwork, all of them wanted to talk with the students. Topics ranged from hobbies and Halloween to nail polish colors and memories of growing up.

“My hope is that experiences like this will help our students see that working with older adults can be very rewarding,” says Kuczmarski.  “There’s increasing demand for health care services in this age group.”

Senior Angie Saint-Yi plans a career working with older adults.  “I’m very interested in optimal aging,” she says. “Food is one of the few things that we can actually control.”

Article by Diane Kukich

Photos by Doug Baker

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