September 01, 2019 | Assisted Living
Baby boomers, who make up today’s incoming generation of senior housing residents, have lived different lives than that of their predecessors. As a result, their expectations of what daily residential life should be like needs to be recognized by senior living facilities. One area where senior living staff is using this awareness to make significant changes is with their dining services. As a result of increased efforts made, here are several aspects of senior living dining services that are beginning to emerge as trends.
Baby boomers aren’t interested in lining up for three square meals a day. They want flexible dining times and a dining room experience. These preferences are reflected in the latest trends, which include buffets, casual dining, formal dining with full service, exhibition cooking, and more. Some dining service companies even allow recipe suggestions from the residents, and then credit those residents on their menus.
Today’s seniors are with the times and expect meals with natural, healthy ingredients. As a result, food service management companies have been adapting menus to involve international cuisine, gluten-free foods, vegan and vegetarian options, a multitude of flavors and colors, and more.
So, what brought on these preferences from that of past generations of seniors? Considering that former generations were largely made up of veterans, many were averse to eating German, Vietnamese, or Japanese cuisine. Also, it was nearly unheard of to serve a meal without meat as the main item.
With health food trends being different than what they were back then, today’s seniors are on the lookout for meal substitutions and alternate menu items that satisfy a wider spread of palates and accommodate a variety of food allergies, dietary restrictions, and lifestyle choices.
Baby boomers grew up immersed in a host of social activities. From birthday, graduation, anniversary, and holiday celebrations, to get-togethers for sports, concerts, and other events, baby boomers place a high priority on the social aspect of gatherings, which just so happen to always include food. That’s what meeting for meals is to them – social gatherings, which also happen to include food.
This is why one of the top trends in senior living dining includes throwing a bevy of parties, particularly during the holiday season. For example, one day during the Christmas season may involve a party for the residents alone, while another day’s party may allow them to extend invitations to friends and family.
Certain facilities will even offer small, private parties directly in a resident’s private room or condo so that residents can invite their families to enjoy a meal within the comforts of their own home. All food is cooked, catered, and cleaned up after by the staff, allowing residents to enjoy the feeling of being able to offer hospitality to loved ones without the stress of having to manage the evening’s cooking and cleaning duties.
With commonly structured meal times in formal dining areas, residents tend to develop a habit of sitting in certain seats. If they come down for their lunch or dinner and find a resident’s visiting family member in their seat, it can start a domino effect of displacing residents from their usual seats and create unnecessary chaos and awkwardness.
The addition of bistro-style community options allow for visitors to pop in with residents at any time for a quick cup of coffee or a casual meal. It promotes a friendly environment that allows residents and guests to come and go as they please without interfering with others in the facility’s formal dining space.
Gone are the days of “snack time” in senior housing facilities, where residents might be treated to a cup of jello or a package of graham crackers in the afternoon. Regimented meal and snack times are being replaced with round-the-clock food availability, which allows residents to be flexible and eat when they’re ready.
Baby boomers are also looking for more exciting options than pre-packaged puddings or store-bought cookies. They want stocked pantries that offer cereals and fresh-baked cookies, muffins, and pastries. They want fresh-brewed, branded coffee options. In essence, they don’t want to be handed the same old snack at the same time every day. They want more independence and control over when, and how much, they eat, as well as the pleasure and satisfaction one gets from having a variety of options.
Today’s seniors are informed about trending health concerns and appreciate knowing that much of their food is coming from nearby, locally sourced establishments. These can include fruits and vegetables, bakery goods, coffee, and specialty items. Not to mention, it’s common for residents to have relocated from areas close to where the housing community is based, so, when it comes to local purchasing, food service staff make it a point to seek out vendors that many residents already know, love, and recommend.
A fully engaged dining management staff that keeps up with the trends is a way for senior living communities to attract new residents. Baby boomers have a combined passion for food and social activities, so a professionally managed dining service can certainly help to edge out one senior living community over another. Professional services include executing and supervising all dining services, from snacks to meals to barbeques and parties and other community events. Set up, food prep, food service, and clean up are all provided. Senior housing facilities that understand the expectations of baby boomers have the upper hand over those that do not.