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A server at a Senior Living community smiles while taking an order.

The Future of Dining in Senior Living

What’s cooking at your senior living community? As it turns out, this question holds a lot of weight for executives and their residents – and the coronavirus pandemic is forcing many senior living providers to rethink their dining experience entirely.

A 2016 survey of senior living executives found that an ‘overwhelming’ number believe dining plays a major part in consumer satisfaction with and choice of senior living communities. But as the senior living industry continues to battle COVID-19, dining staff have been forced to pivot – and residents are being provided with a much different experience as a result.

Dining During a Pandemic

With new rules and regulations in place, residents in most senior living communities are no longer able to gather for meals in packed dining rooms. Instead, staff are delivering meals to residents’ rooms. Some communities have implemented social distancing rules for meals, allowing residents to gather in smaller groups in common areas. The COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging and frustrating for staff and residents alike, but it’s still possible to provide delicious and nutritious food to residents despite the current circumstances.

Rethinking the Resident Experience

Residents’ dining expectations in their senior living community have changed – even before the COVID-19 pandemic began. They are more likely to desire flexibility, both in menu options and in their choice of dining venues. This means providers need to ensure that the dining experiences they offer are truly extraordinary – as well as nutritious. Some communities have already answered this call by introducing a host of different dining options:

Cafés and Bistros
Gone are the days of the one-size-fits-all senior living dining room. Many communities offer their residents dining venues that serve them on demand, like grab-and-go cafés, bistros and coffee shops. At LivGenerations Ahwatukee, an assisted living community in Arizona, one café is open to the public to strengthen the community connection among residents. The café also features a patio for residents to relax and dine on their own time.

Pubs and Wine Bars
Senior living residents are adults — and they’ve lived full lives. It’s becoming more common for senior living providers to recognize and celebrate that by building full-service pubs and wine bars in their communities, rather than more childish dining venues, like ice cream parlors.

Farm-to-Table Fare
Some senior living communities have embraced the idea of growing — and eating — local fare. That’s certainly the case at Maplewood Senior Living in Connecticut, where dining staff take a “local first” approach when it comes to the food they serve. Residents at all Maplewood communities eat a variety of produce grown on the company’s 48-acre farm in Easton, CT. The chef also provides seasonally inspired choices every day. 

The Importance of Nutrition

While these communities strive to deliver delicious food in a wide variety of settings, they must also make sure their residents have access to proper nutrition. This is becoming increasingly difficult because residents are more exposed to a variety of dishes and grab-and-go options than ever before.

For this reason, about half of senior care providers currently use an automated nutrition management program to track residents’ nutritional profiles, including special diets and allergies. Residents’ families and staff find this especially helpful as it provides valuable insight into residents’ dietary intake. It’s also used to determine if residents are getting the nutrition they need to stay healthy. The information can also be used to determine which dining options are the most popular amongst residents.

As providers continue to add new and exciting dining options to their communities, it’s essential to have the right system in place to track and manage resident nutrition and preference.

Click here to learn more about how PointClickCare’s Nutrition Management solution can help your community provide the best dining experience for residents.

July 6, 2020