A reader sent us a link to an article entitled: Seniors Balk at Ban on Free Donuts that I thought was just too bizarre not to pass along. Apparently, in an effort to upgrade the nutrition offered to their senior clientèle, the powers that be at the William Koehler Memorial Senior Center (in New York) decided to remove donuts (as well as pies and other packaged pastries) from the menu. The response to this seemingly positive and innocuous move probably took the administration by surprise.

A generation ago, such a move might have incited a few quiet grumbles and grouses from the wizened silver heads, but the newest members of the burgeoning senior generation of today were the flower children of the 60s. They don’t grumble; they protest. With signs.

In the article, CSPI’s Michael Jacobsen (whom I rarely agree with) makes the valid point:

older people have high rates of heart disease and high blood pressure and…senior citizen centers, nursing homes, and assisted-living centers should not be worsening the health problems of seniors.

I agree with him for once. Assuming that the center receives government funds, tax dollars shouldn’t be used to support high-carb, trans-fat junk food nutrition for a group of people who are likely to be insulin resistant and probably already taking a laundry list of medications (perhaps paid for in part by the Medicare Prescription Plan) to lower their blood pressure, blood sugar, triglycerides, and cholesterol. And probably proton-pump inhibitors and acid blockers, too, for their GERD, which dining on Danish will only further exacerbate.

The protesters were trying to make this a matter of choice and rights–their right to choose what will be served to them at the center–but that argument won’t hold water. To my knowledge, the founders did not guarantee us an inalienable right to free jelly donuts. Don’t misunderstand my point here; however much I might disagree with the choice to go face first into a plate of jelly donuts, I’m the first to stand up for a person’s right to choose to engage in self-destructive behavior, so long as it doesn’t infringe on another person’s right to choose not to do so. But that’s not what’s going on here.
Nobody’s saying they can’t have their cake and eat it, too. Just that they’re no longer going to buy it for them.

(Hat tip to Jenny J. for the link.)


  1. The donuts, etc. were donated to the senior center. They were day-old (or older) items that businesses were unloading. Evidently, some of the items were moldy and unfit for human consumption (ignoring the trans-fat and sugar problems).

    Some of the senior donut eaters were protesting because they weren’t consulted first. As many thousands of seniors are eligible to use the center, it would have been ridiculous to consult with them all. I doubt that any of them were consulted before they began allowing the donuts into the center.

    At least they are getting some exercise on the picket line.

  2. “The Bronx center offers coffee, tea, bagels and rolls in the morning, but nothing in the doughnut family.”

    Oooh, now ~there’s~ a healthy breakfast for seniors: caffeine and carbs.

    If that’s standard breakfast fare at senior centers, no wonder so many elderly people have health troubles, yet probably many think it’s fairly healthy because coffee and a bagel as a meal are relatively low in calories and fat (270 cals, 4 gr fat (probably mostly transfat), 9 gr protein, and 51 gr carbs).

    But put it in percentages, a meal of coffee and a bagel is 10% fat, 14% protein and 76% carbs. Jenny

    COMMENT from MD EADES:  Right you are.  And so many of the nutritional establishment would call that a perfectly good breakfast and decry one of eggs, crisp bacon, and fruit as a ‘dangerous high protein, high fat breakfast’.  Go figger.

  3. My aunt brought this little white dog with her when she came to visit at 5:00 am this morning –

    it’s owner was an old man who just got put in a nursing home – and now just died

    the little white terrier dog – who is bout 12-14 years old or so would sit on the mans step as my aunt drove by to work every day –

    So my aunt finally stopped an asked about the dog – and ended up taking him home – with her cats –

    I thought this was so incredibly sad – the poor little dog – an the poor old man

    And I thought then that the only things in life worth anything were –

    the power we had – but refused to use it

    the useless mean words – that we left un-said

    However Dr. – I find it beyond amusing that apparently you and others feel it is quite okay to raise my cigarette taxes another six dollars a carton – to pay for middle-upper income family’s child health care and yet you balk at a few donuts for Mom and Dad –

    Oh – you mean – mean – man.

    COMMENT from MD EADES: I’m sorry; I don’t follow your logic here. When did I advocate raising the cigarette tax to fund middle-upper income family child health care? (And PS: if I’m mean, which I don’t believe to be the case, I’d be a mean, mean woman.)

  4. Dr Mary Dan:
    Without infringing on human rights of individuals, the facility should charge for the donuts, plus add fat tax, trans fat tax, heart and stroke tax, diabetes tax, obesity tax and sugar tax on them as well. Then the seniors will do double duty exercise by protesting the extra charges that they can’t afford because they are all on “fixed” incomes.

    COMMENT from MD EADES:  Though I don’t know the specifics, these facilities probably aren’t in the business of selling, though they could provide vending machines, I suppose.  ‘Free foods’ offered at government supported facilities/institutions ought not–in my opinion–to be junk, whether given to seniors, toddlers, or any age in between. No one is harmed by giving away healthier foods and letting those who wish to have junk buy whatever they want.

  5. The sad part is the ADA and the AHA have told these people that it’s ok to eat sweets and high carbs. Big pharma loves this because they can sell more meds. As Gary Taubes eludes to in his book “Good Calories Bad Calories” we have been brainwashed for over 60 years by the government, big pharma,most of the medical/scientific world, and the media to believe in the low fat/high carb/low cholesterol diet. No wonder they wanted their donuts. They are addicted to carbs.

  6. I see where you are going with this. However, I don’t want the federal (or any other govt.) allocations to be based on their food choices. That’s a scarier thought than the jelly do-nuts 🙂

  7. Mary Dan,
    I am really disappointed in myself. Unlike two of your posters I am completely unable to read your mind. Have a nice day!
    COMMENT from MD EADES: Likewise.

  8. My father in law was told by his doctor to adhere to a very strict diet. He was disabled and lived with us. We eat paleo. Dad did not want to eat paleo,but every restriction his doctor imposed fit well within the boundaries of paleo. When I asked for help on the paleofood list with how to help Dad adapt his palate, or to create paleo foods he might enjoy — I was told that I shouldn’t dictate what the old man wanted to eat — that it was presumptuous of me. Do I agree? I don’t know at this point. I quit participating on the paleo food list because I was hurt by what people said — but it’s the same reasoning the senior center used in removing the donuts. Dad? He decided to eat what he damn well pleased and is now in a nursing home (where they don’t cater to his food whims at all) We chose to eat paleo. We don’t regret it.

    COMMENT from MD EADES: There are really two sides to this issue: the right to eat what one wants to eat regardless of the consequences to oneself and the responsibility not to feed something unhealthy to someone one loves. Both can coexist. In such a situation, you (for instance) would have prepared meals for your father that fit his physician’s guidelines and still adhered to your paleo leanings and he (for instance) could chose to eat them or not. The critics are right in saying that you can’t force your own belief system on another grown human, but you also don’t have to contribute to (or pay for) their destructive choices. That’s the issue in the article; not the right of the seniors to determine what they will eat, but the right of the center to determine what they will serve them for free.

  9. I believe the key to quality healthcare is in choosing the right plan. While the healthcare system does need improvement if Americans take the time to research and find the right plan it can at least be manageable. The Medicare system is getting better also. There are many more options these days for medicare insurance. I think it all depends on making wise decisions

  10. Hm. When I’m the age of the folks shown in the photo — which isn’t *that* far off in the future — I have every intention of spending my last few years on earth eating whatever tastes good to me, including donuts (although I hope I still have a few bucks left to buy fresh ones).

    Right now, in my mid-50s, it’s important to me to move comfortably, to look in a way that is reasonably close to cultural standards for beauty, and to stay on the planet for another decade or two. But I’d rather die at 85 with donut jelly smeared on my smiling lips than munch lettuce in a nursing home at 100.

    Dr. Eades, you write: “The critics are right in saying that you can’t force your own belief system on another grown human, but you also don’t have to contribute to (or pay for) their destructive choices.” That’s true and ethically sound when you’re dealing with a healthy and independent adult — but the poster was writing about a senior citizen who was dependent on her for his food. Imagine yourself, when you’re too old for independent living, under the care of a Dean Ornish fan — being given plates full of high-carb, low-protein whole grains and tofu because it’s “good for you.” I wouldn’t wish a life like that on an enemy, much less my parent.

    Set one of those picket signs aside for me, please!

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