When it comes to dining and food service, seniors are well-traveled and well-educated and look for menu options that reflect their life experiences. Here are three dining trends you’ll find in senior living communities:
1. Restaurant style dining
Seniors will often seek a restaurant-style food and dining experience for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks in between. From food preparation to management and service, the restaurant style approach deploys facility staff in traditional restaurant roles to deliver the proper experience. This involves creating a menu that changes with seasonally available foods that residents will enjoy.
Dining options have evolved significantly over the years in senior living communities. “We’ve improved the taste and quality of meals and offered a larger variety of food options,” said Amy Suwalski, RDN, Elderwood's Director of Nutritional Services. “Choosing palatable and visually appealing products is also important to encourage eating.”
2. Healthy approach to nutrition
Nutrition plays a crucial role in an individual's overall health, which becomes even more important with age. Family members often notice that their elderly loved ones are having difficulty eating or losing their appetite. Nutritional barriers increase as people age, according to Suwalski. "Our Registered Dietician Nutritionists (RDNs) use their expertise to address these issues and craft nutrition plans that help heal residents from the inside out," stated Suwalski.
Loss of appetite has a significant impact on the health of seniors. With a lack of appetite, the body won’t be able to receive the nutrients required for optimal health. “It is very common to see a loss of appetite in the elderly. The underlying reasons include decreased physical activity, depression, or other factors such as medications. A senior’s care team should be be made aware of these concerns as soon as they are noticed," Suwalski noted.
Dietitians at Elderwood advocate on behalf of residents to help ensure their nutritional needs are met. As part of their responsibilities, RDNs are often consulted on upcoming meal requests. The dining team and nutritionists work together to develop dietary plans that address appetite loss.
"We cannot thank our RDNs enough for their dedication to our patient's health. They make a significant difference to their health every single day. Nutritional health should be discussed with a resident’s physician as soon as possible if there are concerns. Our overall health is largely affected by what we eat. As a result of properly leveraging food, not only can it help manage our health, but it can also help prevent disease," said Suwalski.
3. Individualized dining options
Residents in senior living can enjoy individualized dining options. This is especially important for seniors with underlying health conditions. Those who have dietary restrictions are offered individualized dining plans with dietary plans that may be focused on heart health, featuring consistent carbohydrates, or assisting in renal function. Specialized plans can be made for those who are lactose intolerant, vegetarian, or gluten free.
Senior living facilities also cater to those with food allergies and those with autoimmune conditions that affect the digestive system, such as Celiac Disease. “For facilities that can accommodate gluten free residents as well as those with food allergies, we have dedicated space, equipment, and utensils in the kitchen for their food preparation. The protocol for handling food allergies is preventing cross contamination and making adjustments in our menu software program so that residents don’t receive an improper item on their meal ticket and tray,” said Suwalski.
Providing a superior dining experience is the priority of Elderwood's culinary services team. At Elderwood, we are setting ourselves apart through our approaches and are turning a creative eye to menus, nutrition, presentation, and more. Every meal is delivered with excellent service and a pleasant experience by our culinary team. To learn more about our dining experience, visit Elderwood.com.