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Penn Asian Senior Services

Preserving cultural signposts while traveling in a healthier direction

The challenge

Gardening has two benefits: It’s a safe, enjoyable physical activity and also produces healthy foods. But, gardening in urban areas can be difficult due to limited indoor and outdoor space for nursing plants. Also, some ingredients used in ethnically popular meals are not heart-healthy. They could be replaced with better alternatives if people knew more about them.

The vision

Founded in 2005, Penn Asian Senior Services (PASSi) delivers home health care, vocational training and adult day care to southeastern Pennsylvania’s linguistically and culturally diverse Asian population. PASSi is using its support from the Aetna Foundation to launch Moving Towards Wellness, which offers seniors space for community gardening, as well as healthy cooking classes and recipes. Seniors receiving at-home care also learn exercises they can perform daily with little need for physical space.

The approach

Seniors receiving day care services get exercise by moving daily throughout indoor and outdoor garden areas. To cultivate healthy herbs and foods, they germinate seeds indoors, and then transplant their seedlings into an outdoor garden. Experts teach weekly healthy cooking classes in various Asian languages. Participants learn alternatives to unhealthy ingredients that preserve good taste. And they’ll share the recipes they with families and the public.

About 150 multilingual home health aides will learn ways to be more physically active in an urban environment. They will also learn the basics of healthy eating and cooking. In turn, they will teach hand and chair exercises to their senior in-home care clients, along with the healthy cooking strategies they’ve collected.

The results

The Moving Towards Wellness Project is reaching more than 1,000 seniors. Its goal is to make growing fresh fruits and vegetables so pleasurable that nearly all seniors report satisfaction with this activity. The project also will poll whether the seniors are actually using the home-grown herbs, fruits or vegetables in their meals.

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