Retirement Community: Health and Nutrition

Dining is an important experience for residents at a retirement community. It’s more than just a healthy meal; it’s also a social highlight for the residents. This is why many senior communities focus not only on the importance of healthy nutrition, which is essential for seniors, but also on making the food delicious and the dining experience pleasant. But preparing fine food for a large group of seniors isn’t easy. Innovation is the name of the game. Seniors have unique nutritional needs, both as a group and as individuals.

When planning meals for seniors, factors such as decreased ability to taste, medication side effects and changing appetites must be considered. In addition to religious or cultural diet restrictions, seniors also often need special diets to help manage chronic illnesses such as hypertension, heart disease and diabetes. Communities must also be prepared to help new residents who are obese to slim down, or to help new residents who are underweight regain muscle mass. How do senior living communities manage to achieve these varied goals while maintaining a rich dining experience for elderly residents? There are some interesting and innovative ways that senior communities are promoting health and happiness through a commitment to nutrition and great food.

The preferences of residents are a key factor in menu creation at senior communities. Communities consult with their residents as a first step of the menu planning process.  Dialogue between residents and dining staff is important. Communities will also poll their residents or ask for favorite recipes that residents made for their families.  All this is to make dining as resident-centered as possible.

The orchestration of a menu at senior living communities is by no means an ad hoc process. Communities make sure that the food is nutritious and appetizing as possible.  In many communities there can be a large selection of entrees on the menu.  This can assist residents in staying within their dietary restrictions and yet enjoy a delicious meal.

Senior living communities personalize the dining experience. At many communities the dining staff will walk from table to table during meal time, getting to know the residents and welcoming feedback about the food. Residents with certain dietary restrictions can usually be accommodated.

Many senior communities offer flexible mealtimes (“anytime dining”) so that residents can adopt a schedule and routine that fits their unique preferences and characteristics. According to a recent study, seniors also report higher levels of satisfaction with independent living communities that provide flexible dining hours. We should note that those communities that do not offer all-day dining do make snacks available between meals.

Homemade meals may not seem that innovative considering that humans have been cooking for thousands of years, but made-from-scratch food it is indeed innovative for large facilities. But assisted or independent living communities have moved away from institutional approaches and serve home cooked food whenever possible. While many senior living communities are part of large national chains, regional food is incorporated into the menus. Local produce are incorporated into meals whenever possible. Many Retirement communities have programs to help and encourage seniors to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables.

Classes, lectures and continuing education are a big part of the senior living experience. Many communities provide culinary classes and demos for their residents. These classes help the residents see first hand the chef working and how he attends to creating their menu items, mixing food education and awareness into their activities.

Many people over age 60 have hypertension (high blood pressure). Heart disease is also very common among older people too. For this reason, communities strive to provide meals lower in fat and less salt. To ensure that the healthy options taste great, chefs at senior communities often use herbs and spices to substitute for salt. They will also, for example, sometimes substitute yogurt for butter to reduce fat.

Food is more than our body’s fuel and sustenance. It’s a uniquely communal and social aspect of life that can bring people together and unite them. Special events at senior communities, from holidays to community-based activities largely revolve around delicious food, drink, and hors d’oeuvres.

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The Terrace is a complete retirement community, a place where you can call home. Visit our site and see what amenities and activities we have to offer our citizens. View our spacious living spaces and contact us at (573) 875-2538 to see if The Terrace is right for you!