Among the different dining styles, family dining is one that offers a home-like feel… when done properly. The goal is to increase the interaction among seniors by creating an environment that encourages them to socialize and mingle over dinner time, just like they used to at home. But it’s easier said than done as low dining participation is often a challenge that foodservice directors and dietitians have to deal with. Here are five improvements that the foodservice team can make to impact the residents’ desire to join their peers in the dining room and enjoy this prime time together.
- Engage Residents in Menu Development
Residents are more likely to join the dining table, socialize and feel positive if they like the food that is served. So why not include them in the menu selection? Create a rotating menu and include the meals your residents would like to have. Be aware of their opinion by giving out surveys to find out how they feel about the food, what improvement they would like to see in the dining room and what their challenges are around the dining table.
- Consider Physical Limitations
Suffering from joint pain or arthritis isn’t uncommon among elderly. If the dishes and platters are made of heavy material such as ceramics or metal, chances are that they are too heavy to lift, serve and pass around but are embarrassed to ask for help. So they end up not eating as much because of that. The way to avoid this situation is by using lightweight materials for platters, salad bowls and serving utensils such as tongs and spoons.
- Pay Attention to Hydration
Make sure beverage pitchers are frequently refilled on every dining table. Sometimes certain medications can cause dehydration without the resident even being aware of it. Also, think about the residents who suffer from arthritis and choose a lightweight pitcher that can be lifted easily without causing spills and accidents.
- Create a Pleasant Ambiance
Make a difference in dining experience with natural light. During the day if windows are available, allow natural light to show the true colors of the meals being served and to bring warmth to the dining room experience. In the evening, choose a warm relaxing type of lighting over fluorescent to avoid the institutional feel. Take a look at the dining room walls because sometimes, all it takes is a fresh coat of paint to transform a dull room.
- Attentive Wait Staff
Your wait staff should be attentive and make sure there is enough food and beverages on each table. This is the time to observe the interaction with their peers around the same table, appetite pattern and the overall physical and mental health. Often times, the loss of appetite is caused by depression and it’s important to know about that and do something about it.
The foodservice team can make improvements to impact the mental and physical well-being of the residents. As a foodservice director, the key is to pay attention to every resident, identify the limitations and challenges of each, and look for ways to improve their experience.
For information on foodservice solutions for senior living communities contact your local Cambro Healthcare Representative.