Grace Dubendorf sits among friends Tuesday after eating lunch at the Steamboat Springs Community Center.
"Being 77 isn't bad at all," Dubendorf said.
Dubendorf was surrounded by friends who, between discussions of the local news, laughed and joked with each other.
"We're not catty are we?" Bell Chotvacs asked with a sarcastic tone, cutting into the chatter of the table.
Lillian Bergmann, sitting next to Chotvacs, turned to her with a suspicious smile and said, "Naaa," and the two women laughed together.
Later on, Chotvacs commented in the conversation, "I think old is just a state of mind. Some people are old at 30, while others aren't old at 80."
Every week, some senior citizens in Steamboat Springs spend a few days down at the community center to eat lunch and spend some quality time together. The lunch is provided every week day, except for Wednesday.
Most who participate in the luncheons said it's an opportunity to see friends, have a good time and to just have lunch together.
"It's a real sense of community," Lorene Workman said, who frequents the luncheons.
The senior lunch is put on by the Routt County Council on Aging, which has provided an inexpensive or free lunch since 1977 to county residents who are over 60 years old , said Shelley Orrell, program director for the council.
"This is much more than a meal," Orrell said. "For the people who get the meal delivered to their home, it's sometimes the only social contact they have."
Along with serving 260 Routt County residents 8,998 meals in 2000 the Council on Aging also supplied 46 seniors 1,121 meals in their homes last year.
Those numbers include meals served at lunch sites and delivered to residents in Steamboat Springs, Hayden, Oak Creek and surrounding areas.
People 60 and over have the option to pay a suggested price of $2.25, or more if they want, for the lunch.
But, as long as they sign up in advance, or there is enough food, they don't have to pay for the lunch, Orrell said.
"We don't pay any attention to who puts in and who doesn't. It's strictly their business," she said.
For Dubendorf, along with the meals and social opportunity she gets out of the lunch, she said she also benefits from the "great" transportation program that is offered.
"They take you to the post office, to the bank and to the drug store...They even take you to the beauty parlor," she said. "Isn't it wonderful?"
On lunch days, a bus comes to the home of each person who wants a ride to take them to the community center for lunch, Orrell said. After lunch, the bus takes them around town to run errands, she said.
"And the socialization on the bus is important, too," Dubendorf said.
On Tuesday, lunch consisted of baked chicken, along with peas, buttered noodles, fruit cocktail and a cookie to top it off. On other days taco salad or potato corn chowder is served.Each meal must supply one-third of the recommended daily allowances of vitamins and minerals, Orrell said.
"It also gives many of them a variety (of food) that they otherwise might not get," she said.
Many of the people who go to the lunches live alone. If one of them cooks a roast for themselves, Orrell said, for example, it will take them a few days to eat it.
"They serve excellent meals for what we have to spend," Chotvacs said, who also is a volunteer at the luncheon.
The Council on Aging, a nonprofit agency, prepares the meals on a budget formed primarily from state and federal grants, funds from the human resource coalition, which is money from the city and the county, and the Routt County United Way.
That allows for inexpensive meals.
"Where else can we go and have a lunch for $2.25?" Bergmann asked.
To reach Doug Crowl call 871-4206 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org