April 21, 2020 | Assisted Living
Any commercial kitchen faces a handful of challenges that come with feeding large groups of people. That said, there's a big difference between a restaurant and a nursing home or assisted living facility — catering to the elderly, people with illnesses, and people with dietary restrictions.
These might seem like relatively minor hurdles when it comes to setting up a commercial kitchen and dining spaces, but, in reality, they have a major impact on everything from the layout to the appliances. Here are some of the top design trends helping assisted living facilities keep their residents happy, healthy, and well-fed.
One trend that's been seen everywhere from commercial restaurants to hospitals, to senior living dining facilities is a trend toward the sleek and modern. While kitsch and knickknacks can be fun and certainly have their place, modern dining trends are turning more toward clean lines, a lack of clutter, a bright, airy atmosphere, and depictions of nature (either in the form of live plants or nature-inspired artwork).
This mirrors a shift in menus toward fresh, locally-sourced ingredients, organic food, and plant-based diets. For residents in assisted living facilities, the trend makes sense. Too much decor can create confusion or tripping and fall risks, while images of nature and calming colors create a relaxing environment. Plants can give residents something to take care of, which has been proven to help improve longevity.
In the past, dining in a senior living facility conjured up images of buffet lines and steamer trays full of beige, textureless food. Now, more and more facilities are creating a variety of dining experiences for their guests — everything from "food court" layouts to seated dining with printed menus and waitstaff.
This allows residents to exercise a degree of control over what they eat, and enjoy a communal, social atmosphere, both of which contribute to a higher quality of life. Even so, not all residents can eat in the dining room, so kitchen layouts must accommodate the tools and appliances needed to assemble appealing food trays and keep them at a safe temperature until they can be delivered.
Assisted living residents like to feel as independent as possible. Many care facilities recognize this and have begun instituting family-style kitchen designs in their dining areas. With smaller dining areas and kitchens closer to what one might find in a home, these are designed to give residents an experience that's as close to being at home as possible.
Staff and residents can cook alongside each other, while lower counters, lower cabinets, and integrated knee spaces offer accessibility for wheelchair-users. Pairing these kitchens with dining facilities that offer prepared meals allows residents to choose whether they want to cook for themselves or have their meals prepared for them, and still enjoy the social aspect of dining.
Natural light doesn't just look better, it's important from a physical and psychological health standpoint. Since dining areas are one place where the majority of residents are guaranteed to spend at least part of the day, senior living dining rooms are beginning to incorporate more natural light sources. Skylights and large windows increase sun exposure and help bolster vitamin D levels, regulate sleep, and can even reduce eyestrain in people with aging eyesight.
Following the shift toward more modern designs, there's an accompanying shift in color palettes. Neutrals work well for hallways and places where good visibility is of paramount importance, while colors that evoke nature create a relaxing atmosphere in other areas. Furniture in contrasting colors helps further improve visibility, while pieces with rounded, soft edges further reduce injuries and tripping hazards. More assisted living facilities are also shifting away from high-end, formal wall treatments, to paint. This helps create a more comfortable, home-like atmosphere for residents.
Choosing the right furniture can be a huge boost to senior's feelings of independence. Height-adjustable tables with pedestal bases allow residents with mobility aids to take their meals in the dining room. Square tables are preferable to circular ones, as they can be easily pushed together to create larger seating arrangements or adjust the flow of the space.
Durable, stain-resistant upholstery is a must. Patterns can help hide spills, but large-scale patterns may be too chaotic and confusing for residents with visual or cognitive impairments. Dark colors and small patterns are the best of both worlds, providing a strong visual contrast with other decorative elements, while effectively hiding stains.
Every generation grows up with different decor, home trends, and dietary preferences. As they age and enter assisted living facilities or nursing homes, these preferences should be reflected in the places that house and care for them. These trends don't just accommodate the dining and decor preferences of the current generation of elders, however — they also help make dining a fun, engaging, and relaxing experience that boosts their quality of life and contributes to healthy aging.