AgriLife Extension reaches senior citizens through Healthy Cooking School

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SAN ANTONIO – More than 120 people, primarily senior citizens, attended the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Dinner Tonight! Healthy Cooking School senior brunch held recently at the San Antonio Garden Center.

Participants came to the event from various senior centers, the YMCA, churches, Silver Sneakers and medical groups with senior wellness programs.

Also among the attendees were Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, State Rep.Barbara Gervin-Hawkins and Dr. J. Oscar Seda, family medicine physician and holistic wellness specialist with the Gonzaba Medical Group.

“While we have the word ‘dinner’ in our program, we have healthful and easy recipes for all times of the day and for all age groups,” said Angie Gutierrez, AgriLife Extension family and community wellness agent, Bexar County. “At this event, we chose to serve lighter brunch items that are easy for seniors to prepare.”

Gutierrez said the program is designed to show people how to make better food choices and the importance of getting physical activity at any age.

Brunch items included a lemon-blueberry salad, shrimp cilantro tostada and Mexican hot chocolate cheesecake cups.

AgriLife Extension Better Living for Texans personnel gave step-by-step preparation demonstrations on stage, with each step shown on a large projector screen. Then attendees at each table were provided the ingredients and mixing bowls to make the recipes demonstrated.

Attendees also heard from speakers and were provided a senior Zumba lesson.

“These type of events are very important for our seniors,” Wolff said. “Having the ability to come to a program like this and have seniors learn about nutrition and wellness is a benefit not just to them but to all the people of Texas.”

Wolff also noted his wife Tracy had worked for Agrilife Extension in the 1970s at its downtown office in Hemisfair Plaza. He also said his personal experience as the owner of the Sun Harvest chain of natural food stores had made him more aware of nutrition.

Gervin-Hawkins said it was important that seniors stay active mentally and physically.

“Learning new things about nutrition and exercise and seeing how they can do things differently and find additional resources that can improve their health will also improve their overall quality of life,” she said.

To help seniors find more information on the various health and wellness resources available to them, representatives of several area organizations set up “information stations” in an adjacent room at the center.

Senior-oriented organizations represented included the San Antonio Food Bank, San Antonio Oasis, city departments of parks and recreation and human services, Meals on Wheels, the Mayor’s Fitness Council, Gonzaba Medical Group, En Su Casa and Catholic Charities.

Door prizes were given out and each participant received a seedling cilantro plant.

“It’s vital that we understand how things change as we age and that we make certain changes to our nutritional intake and activity level to accommodate those changes,” said Nelda Leyba Speller, AgriLife Extension county director, Bexar County. “It’s necessary to learn to adapt as we see we are aging, but good nutrition and physical activity are always key to good health at any age.”

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