CORVALLIS, Ore. – A group of Deschutes County baby boomers got their groove on as music from a Wiggles children’s tape streamed from speakers. Behind them a kitchen was ready for the brain-beneficial menu next on the agenda. The fun had just begun
It was the first day of a four-part Nourishing Boomers and Beyond program, a pilot project by Oregon State University’s Extension Service in Deschutes County in partnership with North Dakota State University, where the curriculum was developed.
The plan is to repeat the course in June and have the program picked up by other counties, said Glenda Hyde, an Extension family and community health educator who started the project. Created to help boomers prevent chronic diseases by taking charge of their health, the course touches on strategies for nourishing the brain, skin, digestive system and heart.
Patty Stark, who has taken several classes through Extension, including canning and food preservation, heard about the class and thought, “Gosh, that sounds great. I figured I could really benefit from it.”
After the first class, she was convinced. The dancing, she said, was a kick, and she’d had no idea how important it is for brain health.
“I went home and told my husband that the research shows dancing is one of the best things you can do for memory and preventing Alzheimer’s,” she said. “Maybe we’ll dance more now.”
The cooking segment was even more meaningful for Stark, who is gluten intolerant and has a family history of heart attacks, stroke and Alzheimer’s. Learning to make a gluten-free blueberry buckle made an impression on her, as did a salmon salad with lemon-tarragon dressing.
“Oh yeah, that was a really nice salad,” she said. “I try to eat healthy, but we go out quite a bit. That was definitely something I’ll try at home.”
In the second class on caring for your skin, Hyde introduced facial masks made with ingredients like avocado, whipping cream, carrot, yogurt and flaxseed. She asked everyone to make and try one.
“It was a hoot,” Hyde said. “They made two and put one on each side of their faces. They put the yogurt one on one side first and it was really good. But then they put the second one on the other cheek and, holy smokes, they said they could tell a big difference between the two.”
When the class made oven-roasted sweet potatoes with walnuts, brown sugar and spices, they found out sweet potatoes are even more full of cancer-fighting antioxidants than blueberries. The gluten-free, whole-grain cornbread made with brown and white rice flour, potato and tapioca starch was a revelation, too.
“Nobody could believe how good it was,” Hyde said, adding that ingredients provided by sponsor Bob’s Red Mill went home with participants to encourage them to make the cornbread and other recipes on their own.
Hyde taught more hands-on cooking in the classes on the digestive system and heart, including a popular breakfast dish of whole-grain polenta, wilted spinach, grated Parmesan cheese, mango and just a bit of sausage.
“That went over really well,” she said. “The whole Boomers and Beyond course went over well. Everyone soaked up the information we gave them and everyone had fun, too.”