- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 5, 2015

DEKALB, Ill. (AP) - For Katheryn “Kay” Lyman, the only unusual thing about turning 100 will be sharing the day with her children, she said.

Lyman will celebrate her 100th birthday Dec. 10, and aside from reaching that milestone, the day will be special because it’s one of the two times a year she typically sees her children. Lyman has a son and three daughters.

“I don’t think I ever thought about being 100. It’s a big number,” she said. “I’ll probably think it’s just another day, but my children are coming - they all live 1,000 miles away.”

People’s busy schedules are making it tougher for them to schedule family meals, including those with relatives who might be senior citizens living by themselves. In response, Helen Slagle and her husband, Wayne, owners of DeKalb’s Home Instead Senior Care office, are encouraging families in DeKalb, Ogle and Lee counties to take the Sunday Dinner Pledge - a promise to share a meal once a week with a senior family member.

As people age, their appetites naturally begin to subside. When combined with living alone and other possible physical ailments, it can lead to weight loss and an unhealthy diet for seniors, Slagle said.

Home Instead Inc., a Nebraska-based national senior care franchise with a local office in DeKalb, conducted its own survey of 1,000 households throughout Canada and the U.S. to help gauge how often senior citizens eat with their families.

A senior citizen with a decreasing appetite is reason for concern, especially if family and friends live far away, Helen Slagle said. Even with a weak appetite, seniors are more likely to eat a meal if they are joined by the company of a loved one, she said.

However, they found 75 percent of people only sit down for a family meal with senior relatives at special occasions, events or holidays, according to a news release.

“We go into the client’s house and they’re not really wanting to eat, especially on their own, and they like to have someone to eat with or someone to cook them a meal,” she said.

Aside from an occasional craving for rhubarb pie, Lyman’s appetite isn’t what it used to be, she said. Two years ago, she experienced her first fainting spell, which would return unannounced and without reason in the following years.

Her doctor recommended she drink more water.

“Here I was thinking I’m the world’s best water-drinker,” Lyman said.

Getting families together to share a meal is one way to ensure that seniors are getting the nutrients they need, Slagle said.

“It’s a mission, I guess, to just enhance the lives of the seniors and encourage them to eat and perhaps encourage the families to get back with these seniors and maybe have a pledge to eat one meal a month at least, let’s say on a Sunday,” she said.

People’s busy schedules often don’t allow time for family meals anymore, Slagle said. Even for seniors who have food delivered from services such Meals on Wheels, eating can feel too lonely of a task to manage, she added.

“We’re finding that clients don’t want to eat that food because they’re still eating on their own, and all they want is someone to sit with them and talk to them and then maybe they’ll eat,” Slagle said. “Everyone is very busy now. Most people work.”

Home Instead also found that half of families living near senior family members believe they do not share enough meals with those relatives, and as a result they miss out on an important family connection.

Lyman’s children have not abandoned her, and they are no longer children.

Her family is spread across the country, including her oldest son, who is now 80.

Lyman, however, has chosen to stay in DeKalb in the house where she raised her family, next to Sycamore, the city where she was born.

Each time she becomes ill, Lyman’s three children and a handful of nephews and grandchildren are there to take care of her.

In the meantime, however, Lyman wants someone to shop with, watch Cubs games with, and make sure she’s regaining the weight she lost after an illness.

“Most people are trying to lose weight, but I’m trying to gain it,” she laughed.

For the moments in between family visits, Home Instead trains and assigns caregivers to spend time with local seniors. However, there is something to be said for family dinners, and they don’t need to be scheduled only on Sundays, Slagle said.

“Then they have a family meal and a get-together,” she said. “That way the families are going to get to appreciate the seniors in their life, and the seniors are going to get to appreciate them, and they’re going to eat more, as well.”

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Source: The (DeKalb) Daily Chronicle, https://bit.ly/1NTQlmd

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Information from: The Daily Chronicle, https://www.daily-chronicle.com

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