September 24, 2007, - 7:06 pm
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:
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.
Tags: C. Michael Sibilia, Center for Science, coordinator, Debbie Schlussel, executive director, healthcare, heart disease, high blood pressure, Joe Hajkowski, labor union official, Mahopac, Michael Jacobson, New York, New York City, nutritional services, Office for the Aging, official, Putnam County, Rita Jorgensen, Stan Tuttle, the Public Interest, Washington, William Koehler Memorial Senior Center