What would you like for dinner tonight? Chicken cordon bleu? A plant-based burger grilled to perfection? Shrimp scampi? If you’re a resident of a senior living facility, and none of these are on the menu tonight, chances are they will be soon.
The food at assisted living facilities and nursing homes used to be sort of blah, to put it politely. But that began to change when the Baby Boomers, with their gourmet palates, began moving into senior living facilities.
There are no more mushy meals. And the light hand with the salt and spices is gone. What the Boomers are looking for is food that feels and tastes like the food they ate at fine restaurants. They want that fine restaurant atmosphere, too.
According to an American Time Use Survey, people between 65-74 spend about seven hours a day on leisure activities. Meals are considered an activity and take up about an hour and a half of an older person’s day. The Boomers expect that hour and a half to be enjoyable and time well-spent.
For residents of senior living facilities, there’s another reason why mealtimes are so important. They’re social occasions when everyone gathers in the dining room for conversation, as well as food.
In the top facilities, the dining rooms replicate five-star restaurants with linen tablecloths, crystal glasses, and fine china. Some serve wine with meals. And there’s no cafeteria-style eating. Servers bring the food to the tables and take the dishes away when the diners are finished eating.
Competing For Top Chefs
Senior living facilities used to hire just about anyone who knew how to prepare a meal. But today, they compete with the restaurants and country clubs for the best chefs to run their kitchens.
The chef is backed up by dietitians and a wellness staff to help plan delicious and nutritious meals. In some facilities, a panel of residents makes menu suggestions and gives feedback on the food.
Emphasizing Fresh Food And Choices
Another change that’s come to the kitchens of senior living facility kitchens is an emphasis on fresh food. Before the Boomers came along, that was in short supply at many assisted living facilities and nursing homes. But today, there’s always fresh fruit. And meals are prepared from scratch with fresh farm to table meat and vegetables. Like the food at any good restaurant, chefs prepare food at senior living facilities with sauces and spices.
Choices can range from steak to pizza and even sushi. Keeping their dietary needs and preferences in mind, residents can choose low sodium, gluten-free and vegetarian dishes.
A Sneak Peek At The Menus
So what’s on the menus at the largest senior living companies? Here’s a sneak peek.
One evening at Sunrise Assisted Living, residents got to choose from baked salmon on greens, chicken Milanese, or the sandwich of the day plate for dinner. The salmon and chicken came with Rosemary red potatoes and roasted beets. For dessert, the choices were ice cream, no sugar added ice cream, sliced fresh fruit, sour cream pound cake, or vanilla pudding parfait.
For lunch that day, residents had tomato bisque, spinach blue cheese salad, a choice of chicken pot pie or an egg salad stuffed tomato, or a sandwich. Dessert choices included baked apples, sliced fresh fruit, and ice cream.
On the menu for breakfast were scrambled egg casserole or a Sunrise omelet. Residents could also have cold cereal or oatmeal, bacon or sausage and sliced fresh fruit.
Where Will You Eat?
Generally, dining programs like Sunrise’s are available at continuing care, independent living, assisted living and memory care facilities, and nursing homes. If you buy or rent a home in a senior living community, when it comes to gourmet dining, you’re on your own. So when you downsize, hang on to your cookbooks.