About 25 seniors got out and put a little more spice in their lives by participating at the recent Taste of Cinco De Mayo event presented by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and City of San Antonio Parks and Recreation.
The event, held at the Commander’s House Adult and Senior Center in downtown San Antonio, was offered in-person and virtually.
“This was a particularly special event since it was one of the first live, outdoor, in-person events the agency has been able to hold since the pandemic began,” said Angie Gutierrez, AgriLife Extension family and community health agent, Bexar County. “There were a lot of people who were anxious to be outside and participate in something that was both fun and educational.”
Attendees were encouraged to wear their most colorful fiesta attire in keeping with the event theme. Vibrant banners and tablecloths and a variety of fiesta decorations inside and outside the center made for a fun and festive environment.
“If we told them this was going to be an educational event with experiential learning, we probably wouldn’t have gotten much of a response,” said Gloria de la Cruz-Sandoval, recreation supervisor for the center. “But since we made it look and feel like it was a fiesta where they could socialize and do something fun, we got a good turnout.”
De la Cruz-Sandoval said she has partnered with AgriLife Extension on many programs and serves on its Healthy Living Committee.
“It’s very important seniors have places like this to come to and we offer them a number of health and wellness opportunities,” she said, noting the center has from 800-900 members and serves lunch to from 70-90 seniors daily. “We have our own chef, Chef Albert, who H-E-B provides for us, and he tries to make sure our seniors get a healthy, well-balanced meal.”
Among the participants was Genevieve Trinidad, senior planning and field office director for Precinct 1 County Commissioner Rebeca Clay-Flores.
“Having these senior centers and these types of activities to keep seniors engaged are very important to the community,” Trinidad said. “I think the pandemic has also made people more aware of the need to be more self-reliant and do more things for themselves. And these hands-on educational activities are a great way to learn skills you can apply to everyday living. The commissioner is very engaged in the community and promoting health and wellness, so I know she appreciates the people and organizations that collaborated to make this event possible.”
Event agenda and activities
The event began with a welcome and introduction from de la Cruz-Sandoval, followed by a container gardening demonstration by Jennifer Sierra and Linda Sierra, mother-and-daughter members of the Bexar County Master Gardener Association, a volunteer organization supporting AgriLife Extension horticultural programs throughout Bexar County.
The Master Gardener presentation was followed by a food safety demonstration by AgriLife Extension health and wellness educator Ashley Hernandez and a salsa-making demonstration by Gutierrez. A packet of fresh vegetables for making the salsa was provided by H-E-B and given to each participant as they arrived.
“We wanted to give the seniors a hands-on activity they would enjoy and would be able to duplicate at home,” Gutierrez said.
She said they decided on the salsa-making activity because it revolves around the consumption of vegetables — an important aspect of nutrition at any age, but especially for seniors.
The event also included door prizes and special prizes for members of the “royal court” selected from among the participants for their fiesta outfits and engaging personalities.
Event participant Frances Garza-Alvarado, who won first place as the most festively dressed attendee, said along with the emphasis on healthy eating, one of biggest benefits of the event was having the opportunity to socialize.
“Being with other people helps you stay active and stay healthy,” she said. “I come to the center and participate in a lot of their programs, including dancing, painting, cooking and arts-and-crafts activities. But my favorite part is being able to visit with my friends. I’m glad we’re finally at a point where we can start to get together again.”