For the first time since March 2020, Milestones Area Agency on Aging will be serving in-person meals to diners 60 years and above. The congregate meal sites, which will now be known as “Milestones Community Cafés”, were expected to reopen across most of Milestones’ 17 counties throughout July. However the Chariton site was unable to reopen due to not meeting the CDC’s recommended 70% of Lucas County 65 and older receiving their vaccinations.

For Milestones Nutrition Services Director, Pam Taylor, this is exciting news.

“It’s been a long, busy 16 months waiting for a return to normalcy. I believe the reopening of our meal sites officially marks the start of that return,” said Taylor, noting that CDC and local public health guidelines will be respected.

All Milestones congregate meals sites were quickly closed at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March of 2020. While Milestones continued to serve older Iowans via home delivered meals and drive-through options, welcoming back in-person diners has remained a high priority.

“We miss our participants and they miss our staff,” said Taylor. “Many of these relationships go back years, so I know everybody is looking forward to reconnecting.”

With older adults representing the segment of society most at risk of negative outcomes from COVID-19, participant health and safety was – and remains – Milestones’s primary concern. Accordingly, the agency established the criteria that in-person dining activities would not resume in a county until vaccination rates for adults 65 and above reached at least 70%. According to CDC data, most of the counties in Milestones 17-county Southeast Iowa service area have now reached that level, enabling the decision to reopen sites in those counties with safety protocols in place.

Returning diners will notice something else is new, as well: Milestones dining centers are being rebranded as “Milestones Community Cafés”. “The meal sites are fun, social establishments and we felt the name should reflect that.” said Milestones Marketing Coordinator Mike Mathews. “We hope the new name conveys the intention of the meal sites as being places to find a nourishing meal, social connection, fun activities, and useful information.”

Each Milestones Community Café Site will also be offering door prizes as part of their reopening celebration.

Milestones is one of six state-designated Area Agencies on Aging in the state of Iowa and serves 17 counties across Southeast Iowa. Milestones Area Agency on Aging is committed to working with communities and community-based organizations to increase awareness for aging successfully with dignity and independence. In addition to nutritional services, Milestones provides information & assistance, caregiver support, evidence-based programming, health and wellness programs, and elder abuse awareness & prevention programs.

The Milestones Café located at the Chariton Senior Center opened on Sept. 13 and will serve lunch from 11:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. All meals are served on a contribution basis to people 60+ years of age.