September 24, 2007, - 7:06 pm

You Next?: Food Police Confiscate Senior Citizens’ Donuts

By Debbie Schlussel
I’m all for personal restraint or self-restraint in diets. But there’s a reason the words “personal” and “self” come before restraint. You make the choice what you will eat and whether you will exercise. Not somebody else.
But that’s not the case with senior citizens at the senior center in Mahopac, New York. They had to organize a picket to demonstrate the seizure of their free donuts. Apparently, caregivers there think that the seniors cannot make their own decisions regarding nutrition and a healthy diet.
Them, now; you, next? More from AP:

seniorsdonutprotest.jpg

It was just another morning at the senior center: Women were sewing, men were playing pool – and seven demonstrators, average age 76, were picketing outside, demanding doughnuts.
They wore sandwich boards proclaiming, “Give Us Our Just Desserts” and “They’re Carbs, Not Contraband.”
At issue is a decision to refuse free doughnuts, pies and bread that were being donated to senior centers around Putnam County, north of New York City. Officials were concerned that the county was setting a bad nutritional precedent by providing mounds of doughnuts and other sweets to seniors.
The picketers said they were objecting not to a lack of sweets but that they weren’t consulted about the ban.
“Lack of respect is what it’s all about,” said Joe Hajkowski, 75, a former labor union official who organized the demonstration. He said officials had implied that seniors were gorging themselves on jelly doughnuts and were too senile to make the choice for themselves.
“I’m 86, not 8,” added C. Michael Sibilia.
Inside, some seniors said they missed the doughnuts but others said they were glad to see them go.
“It was disgusting the way people went after them,” said 80-year-old Rita Jorgensen. “I think the senior center did them a favor by taking it away.”
Stan Tuttle, coordinator of nutritional services for the county’s Office for the Aging, said the program had gotten out of control. As many as 16 cases of breads, cakes and pastries were delivered, by various means, to the William Koehler Memorial Senior Center each day. Some were moldy and some had been stored overnight in the trunks of volunteers’ cars, he said.
Caregivers there and elsewhere say the doughnut debate illustrates the difficulty of balancing nutrition and choice when providing meals to the elderly.
“Senior citizens can walk down to the store and buy doughnuts. Nobody’s stopping them,” said Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington.
But he notes that older people have high rates of heart disease and high blood pressure and says senior citizen centers, nursing homes and assisted-living centers should not be worsening the health problems of seniors.

Unless you are mentally incapacitated, nobody else should get to decide what you eat. Just don’t make me pay for your healthcare after the fact.

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5 Responses

Debbie, are you gal pals with Aliza Davidovit? She was on FOX News tonight and reminded me a bit of you, especially up front.
[YES, WE ARE FRIENDS. SHE'S GREAT. DID NOT KNOW SHE WAS ON, BUT SHE WAS A PRODUCER THERE FOR YEARS.
DS]

Anonymous1 on September 24, 2007 at 10:43 pm

Debbie,
First of all, thank you for providing both sides in your excerpt of the article. Many blogs are intellectually dishonest and will cherrypick pieces of the story to suit their agenda. Second of all, I both agree and disagree. Having volunteered at a nursing home during high school due to the fact 60 service hours were required to graduate (I went to private Catholic high school but believe it should be a graduation requirement everywhere) I witnessed how the elderly were treated like complete invalids, children, or retarded people. I was disgusted and quit volunteering there in favor of Habitat for Humanity (something Jimmy Carter is actually good at – I wish he would focus his energies there instead of on geopolitical issues he is way out of his league on). The experience also made me understand why my grandma, a fierce old Irish woman, lived by herself until the age of 93, when she was brought to a hospice and died 2 weeks later. She had too much pride to be treated like that and would have given anyone who would patronize her in such a way the browbeating of a lifetime.
However, I disagree with you regarding the donuts. If they want them that bad, have them brought by relatives or go someplace to buy them. It is a point that these institutions are responsible for the health and safety of seniors once they are there. The institutions aren’t telling anyone what they can or cannot eat, they are simply limiting availablility of unhealthy foods. Personally, given the out of control nature of our tort laws and judicial precedents, I think it might be a liability issue. Just wait for the Estate of Smith to sue some nursing home or state for allowing the diabetic or morbidly obese John Smith to eat donuts at his nursing home, thereby causing him premature death. Just some thoughs Debbie.
BTW – I appreciate your family loyalty and reverence for your father’s memory. It was moving. I hope things are going as well as is possible.

JasonBourne81 on September 25, 2007 at 1:56 am

I miss your calls to the Stern Show. :(
Do you have any plans to call in?

Mike Bachman on September 25, 2007 at 3:08 am

“Personally, given the out of control nature of our tort laws and judicial precedents, I think it might be a liability issue”…yes, that probably is part of the reasoning behind this decision. Which points out: the cost of the out-of-control litigation boom is not just the direct financial cost (although that is plenty high) but the diminution of individual freedom and the poisoning of everyday human relationships.
See also my post No Steak for You!, which I thought was parody when I wrote it.
http://photoncourier.blogspot.com/2003_05_01_photoncourier_archive.html#95061698

photoncourier.blogspot.com on September 25, 2007 at 10:56 am

Wow! I thought this was just a “local issue” that I knew of because I live in the county that sits between NYC and Putnam (where by the way, public sentiment is mostly in agreement with your view of the subject). Glad to see it is being noted elsewhere and nice piece, Deb.

hairymon on September 25, 2007 at 10:29 pm

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