By MAUREEN DOHERTY
NORTH READING — Losing the opportunity to socialize at lunchtime with other seniors while enjoying a nice meal has been one of the more difficult challenges in our post-pandemic world for the town’s older residents.
This was evident last month when over 100 seniors enjoyed each other’s company during the annual Senior BBQ last month, which was held at the Hillview Country Club because the O’Leary Senior Center at the top of the common has not yet reopened for large group activities.
Elder Services Director Mary Prenney commented then that everyone was having such a good time just chatting with one another that they didn’t want to leave. They all had lots to catch up on after 15 months apart!
This situation got the staff members thinking creatively about how they can provide more opportunities for seniors to socialize while daily meals are not being served at the Senior Center and it is not practical to offer them at the Hillview.
Their solution is to offer a pilot program in August called Wednesday’s Bagged Lunches.
According to Sherri Greer, administrative assistant at the Senior Center, they have partnered with Mystic Valley Elder Services (MVES) to provide cold bagged lunches for a $2 donation, but instead of going to the Senior Center they will go to Town Hall.
“We are looking to use space at the Town Hall, either the Select Board’s room or the gym, depending on the temperature,” Greer said. “Our hope is to have some folks who want to sit and eat their pre-ordered bagged lunch on site while some may just want to take their meal home or to the park to eat.”
“It’s not a drive-by,” she added, which is how many of the holiday meals were picked up by seniors throughout the past year. Instead, the seniors will come inside the building to pick up their lunches. A space to socialize and eat will be set up in the building for about an hour and half, she said.
They are still ironing out the details, but MVES publishes its meals a month in advance so the menu offerings each of the four Wednesdays in August is as follows:
August 4: Egg Salad Sandwich with Lettuce on Wheat Bread, Tri-color Pasta Salad, Spinach Mandarin Salad and Lite Italian Dressing, Vanilla Wafers for dessert
August 11: Ham Sandwich with Swiss Cheese & Lettuce on Cracked Wheat Multi Oat Top Bread, Tri color Pasta Salad, Summer Squash Salad and Pineapple for dessert
August 18: Tuna Salad Sandwich with Lettuce on Cracked Wheat Oat Top Bread, Macaroni Salad, Broccoli Slaw and Diet Vanilla Pudding w/topping for dessert
August 25: Waldorf Turkey Salad w/grapes & apples, Garden Salad w/dressing, Vinaigrette Pasta Salad w/diced veggies, Bag of Potato Chips, Kaiser Roll w/promise spread and Peach Cobbler for dessert.
The only requirement is for reservations to be made by noon on Tuesday, the day before the event. But Greer adds it’s perfectly okay for seniors to reserve any combination of Wednesday meals when they call, if they know they’ll be available on those dates.
“Transportation is available for folks that would like to take advantage of this lunch as well,” Greer added. Just call the day before if you need a ride. The Senior Center can be reached at 978-664-5600. Residents age 60 and older may reserve their lunches for a suggested donation of $2 each.