In the past, older adults in their golden years faced finding dining programs in retirement communities that suit their specific nutritional needs. Unfortunately, as many of them adopted a one-size-fits-all approach in many aspects of their services, residents often experienced a lower quality of life as they could not personalize and control their diet. Today, many dining programs have evolved to be more inclusive and tailored to fit your dietary needs, which is critical considering seniors have slower metabolism and tend to have smaller appetites than before. In this article, we share more about how dining programs in retirement communities like ours have evolved since.
Transitioning Towards All-Inclusive Dining
While limited or à la carte dining options haven’t gone away everywhere, the tides are gradually shifting towards all-inclusive dining becoming something of a new standard. As part of ongoing efforts to provide a luxurious, resort-style experience, the freedom to dine at one’s discretion elevates the overall value.
As the name implies, all-inclusive dining means no set number of meals allowed each day, a week, or month. Instead, residents can eat every meal all month long if they choose, and it’s all just part of an all-inclusive formula that sees dining costs rolled directly into the monthly rent. There’s one financial transaction each month that essentially unlocks every available amenity and dining destination community wide. No additional money needs to change hands until the following month. And that affords residents and families peace of mind knowing that all essential needs can and will be met for the forthcoming month.
Availability of More Food Options
Many retirement communities have borrowed a page or two from the cruise ship playbook by making multiple, distinct dining options available to residents. Sure, the main dining room is still the primary option. Still, alternative settings like bars and lounges, restaurants, and coffee shops, and even al fresco dining destinations are popping up, providing unprecedented optionality and culinary variety.
Indeed, gone are the days when only two or three meal choices were being served, and there was only one place—the main dining room—to go and get them. Today, given the emergence of multiple dining options, it’s easier than ever to order off a diverse menu in the dining room, or opt for a soup and sandwich in the cafe, or a freshly baked pizza and draft beer in the sports bar, or even seek other choices elsewhere.
Here again, it’s part of ongoing initiatives to create an overall dining experience that’s more diverse and resident-driven than in prior years.
More All-Day Menus
Under the new, anytime models, the dining room and alternative dining destinations in many retirement communities are technically open all day long, even in between the standard seating times that may still surround breakfast, lunch, and dinner service. That makes it possible for residents to eat when they say it’s time without having set dining hours imposed upon them.
It means they can sleep in, for example, and eat a late breakfast around 10 or 11. And it also ensures they won’t miss out on lunch or dinner service if outside commitments like medical or other appointments run longer than anticipated and cause late arrivals.
But there’s also newfound optionality regarding what to eat, too.
With standard menu options, staple dishes and local or community favorites are always served; every meal, every day, and any time of day. From signature burgers and sandwiches to soup and salad choices and even pasta and specialty omelets, menu options create a breadth of choices that complement each day’s chef-prepared meals and specials.
Benefits of Personalized Dining Programs
In addition to having more control over their meals, there are multiple benefits to personalized dining programs:
- More Balanced Meals: Retirement communities include meals prepared by expert executive chefs who create delicious, fresh, and healthy options that the residents enjoy. Depending on the type of community, residents usually enjoy two to three meals each day. In addition, many communities create an atmosphere in the dining room, where residents can relish the camaraderie of others while each meal is served similarly to a fine dining restaurant.
- Meet Nutritional Needs: As people get older, they become deficient in vitamins and minerals essential to proper health, such as Vitamin D and Vitamin B12. Retirement communities provide daily balanced meals, but they also ensure all meals have the recommended amounts of vitamins and supplements.
- Flexibility in Dining Experience: Communities offer gourmet restaurant-style dining with tableside service. Since residents choose to sit where and with whom they would like, mealtimes are social times for most of them. In addition, it provides a great opportunity for residents to get better to know their neighbors.
- More Interactions with Residents: Like in a restaurant, the executive chef at most retirement communities comes out before serving to go over the menu and describe each item to entice residents to look forward to their meal. The chef also likes to go to each table and talk with residents as they eat. Because retirement communities are close-knit, the chef makes every effort to get to know the residents personally.
- Chef Accommodates Dietary Restrictions: Chefs will prepare meals as healthy as possible by using different seasonings and spices in place of salt and preparing meals that are not laden with fat. In addition, for those residents who have specific dietary restrictions, the executive culinary team can usually accommodate each meal to meet those needs.
- Special Meals and Events: Retirement communities love to host dances, parties, other events, and special meals around the holidays. During these times, great care and preparation ensure that the food is healthy and nutritious.
Food and diet are essential to maintaining optimum health. Retirement communities understand this and work hard to ensure residents get balanced nutrition. Here at the Conservatory Senior Living, we offer a program called “Sensations Dining,” which allows you to enjoy chef-prepared meals.