When designing menus for seniors, it’s important to consider environmental factors that can affect nutrition and food intake.
Food psychologists have studied dietary trends for people of all ages and discovered several striking facts. Of course, we understand how environmental factors can influence health and obesity in children and young adults, but they affect older individuals as well.
Because diet and nutrition are so important for maintaining the health of seniors in the assisted living and nursing home environments, consider these key factors that can influence seniors’ eating habits.
How Atmosphere Influences Seniors’ Dining Habits
Nursing home residents often feel that they’ve lost many of life’s most meaningful experiences.
The ability to share a meal with others in an attractive, comfortable space has been shown to dramatically increase the nutritional consumption of seniors in residential care. Providing a dining room that looks and feels like a restaurant – rather than an institutional dining hall – improves the experience for everyone.
Food psychologists recommend round tables with six seats, but not more than eight. And, if possible, avoid fluorescent lighting.
Using plates for food presentation is also highly effective for increasing nutrient consumption, especially as compared to compartmentalized trays.
Consider Eating Effort When Planning Menus for Seniors
When menu items are challenging for seniors to eat, they consume fewer calories and nutrients.
When planning menus for seniors, consider that most nursing home residents suffer from poor dental health. Missing teeth and ill-fitting dentures create a challenge that can be overcome with the right menu choices.
When residents can easily consume menu items, they receive greater nutritional value from their food and require fewer supplements and calorie boosters.
Consider Cultural Preference Factors for Maximum Nutritional Benefit
Residential care residents, by virtue of their age, have vastly different food preferences than younger individuals.
When menus for seniors are planned by younger staff members who aren’t well-versed in these important cultural differences, residents may rail against what they perceive as strange foods.
As healthy as we know items such as quinoa and kale are, many care home residents don’t recognize them as palatable food. Familiarity is a key factor when composing nursing home menus.
Even cooking techniques can interfere with seniors’ willingness to eat a dish. Try serving al dente broccoli for dinner one evening and you’ll see what we mean.
The benefits provided by the Grove Menus food menu program and planning tools are designed to address these environmental factors when planning menus for seniors. Not only are our menus dietitian-approved, but they have also been extensively tested in the nursing home and residential care environments.
Contact us today to learn more about how our program can help you save money and time, while improving the taste and nutritional value of menus for seniors.