Next Gen Dining Has Arrived
Dining is both the second-largest expense for senior living providers and a critical component for marketing in a highly competitive space. At the Senior Housing News’ DISHED spring conference, leaders who are literally and figuratively building the future of dining shared their unique initiatives.
From innovative, public-facing design to a virtual sea change in menus, every part of the senior living experience is being given a thorough revamp as Boomers start streaming in. Operators, juggling the sometimes conflicting priorities of satisfying the demanding new wave of residents while also meeting regulatory requirements and fulfilling requests from residents’ adult children, have stepped up with ingenious solutions.
Consider the white tablecloth amenities overlaid with today’s hottest experiential themes offered at the aptly named Five Star Senior Living facilities.
“Our menus feature a la carte, ethnic and farm-to-fork items,” says Eric Lindholm, Five Star’s national director of food and dining services. “Happy hours are uber-popular, with wine tastings, craft cocktails, microbrews and a wonderful opportunity to socialize.”
Five Star continues to hone its focus on elevating the dining experience, including a partnership begun in 2014 with California chef Brad Miller. Branded concepts appearing in many of its 270 facilities nationwide include corner cafés, daytime bistros that double as evening cocktail lounges and open kitchen/exhibition cooking models.
Opening the doors to the outside community has proven hugely successful for Arizona’s LivGenerations, which regularly hosts the public at its infusion wine cellar, elegant tea room and Tuk Urban Kafé, according to Cara Baldwin, vice president of dining services.
“Tuk has set us apart from the competition,” she says. The return on investment for the eclectic bistro is phenomenal: “As high as 80 percent of our sales have been influenced by adult children because of their liking for Tuk.”
Connecting seniors with technology is the mission at Green Courte Partners’ independent living communities, with initiatives that include using Amazon’s Alexa to help residents better understand the menu and a Blue Apron-inspired meal delivery program.
Mind Your Diet
Food as healer may have its origins in medicine’s earliest days, but now represents the most natural and effective way to treat, or even prevent, a 21st century litany of ills.
A revelatory 20-year, 10,000-person study begun in 1992 provided strong evidence for the health benefits of vitamin E in nut oils, seeds, green leafy vegetables and whole grains, and omega 3 fatty acids in seafood, while unequivocally labeling saturated and trans fats in baked goods as “bad,” revealed Dr. Martha Clare Morris, director of the Rush Institute for Healthy Aging.
Using these findings, a pivotal study of the MIND diet (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) followed, showing a significant decrease in cognitive decline for adherents, the equivalent of being almost eight years younger. Combining the Mediterranean heart-healthy diet with DASH diet’s low-sodium approach to stopping hypertension, MIND focuses on 10 foods to include (olive oil, berries, fish, beans, whole grains, poultry, nuts and seeds, leafy green vegetables such as spinach or kale, and one glass of wine a day if desired) and five to limit (red meat, cheese, fried foods, sweets and pastries, butter and trans-fats margarines). A randomized trial now in progress will provide even more definitive outcomes in 2021.
“There is still a great deal of study we need to do, and I expect we’ll make further modifications as the science on diet and the brain advances,” says Morris.