Dining Delights!

A group of elderly people having lunch together at a nursing home

National Nutrition Month is the perfect time to underscore the profound impact of nutrition on senior health, particularly in assisted living communities. Research has shown the quality of a person’s diet can have a huge impact on physical condition, cognitive condition, bone health, eye health, vascular function, and the immune system. At Charlesgate, daily meals and snacks are a key assisted living amenity; served in our newly renovated, beautiful dining room, food fosters vitality, well-being, and quality of life.  

Seniors face unique challenges when it comes to maintaining a balanced diet. Appetite often decreases with age, along with changes in smell and taste. In addition, difficulty with chewing and swallowing may occur as overall oral health declines. Medical conditions may also make getting proper nutrition difficult; for example, medicines for arthritis can cause gastritis and constipation. Moreover, seniors may face mobility and economic barriers to shopping for food – which makes the dietary role of assisted living communities more critical. Close to half of seniors don’t get enough protein and many don’t get enough hydration.

Mealtime is not only a time to tantalize the taste buds but an opportunity to promote optimal health and vitality among assisted living residence. Here are some key elements that go a long way in supporting the nutritional needs of seniors:

  • Responsive meal planning Food is memory; smells and tastes can trigger deep feelings and emotions. Building meals that tap into positive nostalgia and cultural experiences can encourage eating. Incorporating typically missed nutritional ingredients into these foods, like using protein-rich Greek yogurt instead of high-fat mayonnaise, can boost nutritional needs while providing comfort. Executive Director of Charlesgate Food Services John Ladish recognizes the dual nature of nutrition in assisted living, “I remind my chefs that for three hours a day, we are not only providing sustenance, but we are providing stimulation of the senses and joy to the heart.”
  • Nutrient-rich items From fresh fruits and vegetables to lean proteins and whole grains, there is a diverse array of options which are both delicious and nutritious. Many foods do double-duty: being tasty while supporting health. For example, sweet potatoes, kiwi fruit, apricots, green beans, and lettuce are anti-inflammatory superstars and can offer protection against type 2 diabetes as well as cardiovascular disease. Salmon and light canned tuna may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s while that morning cup of coffee can help solidify new memories.
  • Dining experience American food journalist and author Mark Bittman observed that “Eating together is a way of celebrating our common humanity.” Research has shown that social isolation is associated with about a 50% increased risk of dementia and other serious medical conditions; nearly 25% of adults aged 65 and older are considered socially isolated. So, beyond the nutritional content of meals, the communal experience of eating is important. Dining, which fosters interaction and engagement, creates social bonds; places like assisted living provide individuals with opportunities to share meals and forge meaningful connections.

Good nutrition is not just about what we eat but also about the joy and fulfillment that food brings to our lives. By prioritizing nutrition and embracing the culinary delights of senior living, we pave the way for a healthier and more vibrant future. And that’s a thought worth savoring.

Categories: Aging Well, Dining, Nutrition