Helping Seniors Stay Independent

HNRCA community series aims to keep older adults healthy enough to live at home

Kyla Shea at Tufts

This fall the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts has partnered with Cambridge Neighbors, a grassroots organization that helps senior citizens live independently, to create a community lecture series focused on nutrition’s role in healthy aging.

More than 80 people attended the first lecture in September, where HNRCA researcher Liz Johnson talked about diet’s role in preventing macular degeneration and cataracts. This month, researcher Kyla Shea will speak on maintaining and improving bone strength, and in November researcher Dennis Steindler will discuss how food can improve cognitive function.

“When you put the three programs together, it’s really a powerhouse of information,” said Barbara Selwyn, executive director of Cambridge Neighbors, noting that vision loss, bone fractures and dementia are some of the most common health barriers to independent living.

Cambridge Neighbors is a pioneer in the “aging in place” movement. According to research by the AARP, nearly 90 percent of senior citizens want to stay in their own homes as they age.

“People love their neighborhoods and communities and derive a lot of benefits from knowing the banker, the people at the bakery shop, their physicians, the transportation system,” said Selwyn. The alternative, she said, is to be sent to live with an adult child or an expensive assisted living which “can be very depressing for some people, because they are uprooted from the world they know.”

Sarah Booth, the HNRCA’s interim director, said delivering the center’s research into the community is an important part of its mission. “The audiences in Cambridge are super engaged and willing to challenge our scientists in a way that will make our research stronger,” she said.

Upcoming events in the series: Kyla Shea will speak on Nutrition and Bone Health on October 19 at 11 a.m., and Dennis Steindler will speak on Nutrition and Brain Health on November 16 at 11 a.m. Both will be held at the Cambridge Public Library, 449 Broadway, Cambridge. Call Cambridge Neighbors with questions and to RSVP at 617-864-1715.

Julie Flaherty can be reached at

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