MISSOURI - The holidays are a time for getting together with family and friends but for some senior citizens, the time can get lonely.

Some people don't have family members they can go to visit, or others might be worried about traveling during the pandemic.

Senior centers across mid-Missouri are trying to make sure the holidays are as welcoming as possible.

Nathan Baysinger, the center administrator for the Cole County Senior Nutrition Centers, said having a place where seniors eat nutritious meals together can help fight off loneliness.

"We can hopefully make a space for anybody who can't, for any reason, see their families," Baysinger said.

One of the most important things about battling loneliness during this time of year is to have a place where older residents can gather with other people to have meals.

"Even though Zoom and FaceTime and everything else are wonderful tools to still be able to see people, having a sense of community around the holidays is incredibly important," Baysinger said.

Especially for those who might be worried about traveling or might not be able to leave their house, it's important to have a place to go or at least some meals provided for them to stay energized and fueled.

"It's a good way to just meet people and build actually build up a sense of community, you know, especially if people do live nearby, then there's a routine you can have with your friends," Baysinger said. "

Food scarcity is also a huge issue around the holidays. According to the USDA, approximately 38 million people face hunger in the United States, and the issue has also been worsened with the pandemic.

The Cole County Senior Centers provide meals in house and to-go to help combat the issue among the older population. They also focus on making the meals nutrient dense.

"One of [our] main objectives is to help seniors remain as independent as possible for as long as possible. And having the budget and the time and the energy for food can be a big deal for seniors because mobility is an issue," Baysinger said.

Below is a list of places in mid-Missouri where older residents can get a free meal:

  • Columbia Senior Center: Meals will be provided through the Powerhouse Community Development
  • Cole County Senior Centers: Meals will be available throughout the week provided by the Food Bank of Central and Northeast Missouri

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