Food, Glorious Food! The Importance of Fine Dining and Nutrition to Assisted Living
Only getting to eat gruel is cruel, indeed. Of course, we’d never serve gruel to our treasured senior assisted living residents at The Kensington White Plains, where fine dining plays a crucial role in senior nutrition and well-being, beyond simply pleasing the palate.
Many people now in their sixties and beyond may fondly recall a tune at the heart of the hit musical Oliver!, titled, Food Glorious Food. The lyrics state, in part,
Is it worth the waiting for?
If we live for eighty-four
All we ever get is gruel!
Five Factors That Affect A Senior’s Dining Experience
Nutrition is the bedrock of healthy, health recovery, and continued wellness, especially among the elderly and those with compromised immunity. Yet designing menus that meet senior needs can pose significant challenges for an assisted living community. Some of the factors providers must address include:
- Metabolism. For every year over age forty, metabolism slows down. This means that if seniors continue to eat the same amount and kinds of food as when they were younger, they are likely to gain weight because they’re burning fewer calories — even given The Kensington’s exceptional life enrichment programs. As a general rule, seniors in assisted living, especially those in a memory care community, tend to be less physically active than they were earlier in life.
- Taste and Appetite. Both taste and smell diminish with age, and table salt must often be restricted or omitted due to health conditions. Medications can also influence appetite.
- Digestion. Due to changes in the digestive system, older adults generate less saliva and stomach acid, making it more difficult for their bodies to process certain vitamins and minerals such as B12, B6, and folic acid, which are necessary to maintain mental alertness, memory, and good circulation.
- Regularity. Because awareness of thirst decreases with age, a senior may be dehydrated without knowing it, which makes both digestion and elimination more difficult — and affects mental acuity. One simple solution is for seniors to get in the habit of drinking a glass of filtered water half an hour before eating, which will help on all counts.
- Lifestyle Changes. A newly single senior may not know how to cook, or may not feel like cooking for one. There are also emotional factors to consider. Loneliness and depression can affect appetite. For some, feeling depressed tends to depress their appetite, and if a senior isn’t eating enough, it can lead to a loss in muscle mass. In others, feeling lonely or sad may trigger overeating.
Whetting A Senior’s Appetite
How can a senior living community make meals more appealing to compensate for decreased taste, digestion and metabolism, when salt is not a good idea? Natural solutions are right under a smart chef’s nose! The following flavor enhancers not only keep food from being bland; they also support senior health:
- Healthy Oils. Like the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz, sometimes what a senior needs to rejuvenate is a good dose of oil, and olive and coconut oil are two excellent choices. While most people have heard of the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet, which favors olive oil along with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, the “best” type of nutritional oil depends on whether it’s going to be used for cooking, or as part of a salad dressing. Healthy oils contain essential fatty acids (EFAs) such as Omega-3 and Omega-6 are also an important source of Vitamin E, an antioxidant.
- Vinegar. Apple cider vinegar is a nutritional powerhouse, beneficial for digestion, weight loss, blood sugar control, and general immune support. Flavored vinegar, such as raspberry vinegar, can also tempt a senior’s palate.
- Sea vegetables (seaweed). Kombu, wakame, and arame provide healthy, natural sea salt (as distinct from table salt) and add flavor to soups, stews, and grain dishes without raising blood pressure. In fact, one study on seaweed and blood pressure in healthy Japanese children found that seaweed not only had beneficial effects on blood pressure — it also provided the possibility of creating a new, earlier-in-life strategy for preventing hypertension in adults.
- Herbs and spices. Several well-known herbs and spices such as thyme, rosemary, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and turmeric are flavorful and add a wealth of health benefits to senior meals, including aiding digestion and bolstering immunity.
Whole, fresh foods including fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, legumes, and protein (poultry, fish, eggs, lean grass-fed meats) can all be quite tasty with some of these seasonings. This is the kind of creative meal preparation that makes fine dining at The Kensington a distinctive experience.
How Fine Dining Serves the Seniors We Serve
At The Kensington White Plains, we know a meal is more than simply the food on the plate. This is why we strive for excellence in cuisine, presentation, service, and atmosphere with every meal we serve.
For example, we often use fresh herbs that residents in our memory care community cultivate, which gives them the satisfaction of contributing to their community.
Our professionally trained executive chef, Norm Fintz, applies his creative talents to craft meals that are flavorful, nutritious, and appealing to all the senses. A self-described “palate pleaser”, Norm brings a lifetime of culinary knowledge and expertise in fine dining and catering to The Kensington White Plains table.
He says, “I hand-select staff who cook from the heart as I do. And I love seniors. I insist upon listening to what they want, preparing meals that delight, and aspiring toward only the highest standards of quality.”
When your loved one dines at The Kensington, they’ll feel as though they’re entering a fine restaurant — with enhancements! Toward this end, our dining highlights include:
- All-day dining with table linens, china, and crystal
- Menu selections include, prime rib, grilled salmon, fresh vegetables, and much more
- Special dietary needs and preferences
- Daily cocktail hour
- Weekly themed cocktail hour
- Wine with lunch and dinner
- Wait staff service in the main dining room
- Café stocked with refreshments and snacks
Personalization Is Key
Because assisted living is by nature a social experience, we aim to make mealtime at The Kensington White Plains an opportunity for everyone to feel cared for and connected. We encourage family members to dine with their loved ones often, just as they would if their loved ones lived elsewhere. Our chef also makes it a point to get to know our residents, and welcomes their feedback about the food.
We adhere to the words a chef in a California fine dining establishment says he lives by. Every day he tells himself, “Tonight you will be feeding your grandma, your mother, your sister, and your daughter. Do not disappoint them.”
By personalizing the fine dining experience, we reinforce the truth that our residents are family, and we always want to treat them like those we love — because we do.