Assisted Living Operator Targets Senior Diets in USDA Pilot Program

An assisted living operator is putting the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to the test by implementing its senior dietary and wellness program in three of the communities it manages. 

Bradley, Ill.-based BMA Management has teamed up with Eastern Illinois University (EIU) for a broader implementation of the USDA’s Eat Smart, Live Strong program, which was originally developed to promote nutrition and exercise for adults ages 60 to 74. 

The program encourages seniors to increase their daily intake of fruits and vegetables and participate in at least 30 minutes of moderately intense physical activity each day. 


It was introduced first at BMA’s Charleston, Ill. location, by virtue of its close proximity to the EIU campus. The management company worked with EIU in the fall of 2012 to test how best to implement Eat Smart, Live Strong in an assisted living environment, and continue to keep residents involved. 

Programs that promote activities of daily living can also help seniors maintain their independence, says BMA. BMA is currently working with Jacquelyn Frank, Ph.D., coordinator of the Master of Arts in Gerontology program at EIU, to implement Eat Smart, Live Strong at three other Heritage Woods communities it manages in Centralia, Flora, and Mt. Vernon, Ill.  

The average age of residents in assisted living communities is 86.9 years old, according to a study from MetLife—somewhat older than the age range the Eat Smar, Live Strong program was developed to target. However, the program has already garnered interest  among residents, as more than 60 have signed up to participate. 


Over four weeks, residents will be required to attend weekly educational programs on nutrition and exercise conducted by an EIU graduate student from the Gerontology school.

“Our emphasis is on helping residents achieve and maintain as much independence as possible for as long as possible,” says Julie Simpkins, vice president of marketing for BMA Management.

In conjunction with introducing the Eat Smart, Live Strong program at the testing communities, BMA Management made several adjustments to its food service and activities programs, according to Simpkins.

“Exercise classes are offered every day of the week, more fruits and vegetables were added to the menu, and we are enhancing the types of refreshments that we serve at activities and special events,” she says.

Written by Jason Oliva

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