Assisted Living Trends in Hospitality

Today’s administrators are challenged with “resident- centered” care that focus on re-creating the residents’ home comforts, daily living routines and opportunities more conducive to socialization.

Since food and hospitality is at the heart of senior living communities, it’s also receiving a face-lift, doing away with the traditional “massive” dining room setting and serving residents their meals on trays. The trend is to deinstitutionalize dining and instead, create rehabilitative settings where elders may receive assistance and support while they enjoy their meal with dignity in an environment that resembles home.

According to Phoebe Richland Administrator Mary Kay McMahon, RN, MHA, NHA, nursing homes were traditionally designed to be structured living environments in a medical model. “Our goal was to reverse this, and to tailor our services to the residents by creating warm “home-like” environments that cater to the residents personal and daily needs,” says Ms. McMahon.

Phoebe Richland’s new look includes neighborhood style living. Three neighborhoods are designated by the care required, for example, short-term, long-term and dementia neighborhoods. Each neighborhood enhances quality of care for residents with multiple services and options for daily living,” says Ms. McMahon. There are also private rooms and baths, and more open and outdoor spaces which are critical to the future consumer and baby boomers who have higher expectations for dining services, amenities and customer service.

After completing renovations, including architectural and interior design changes in 2007, Phoebe Richland focused on dining services, “decentralizing” food service to three new home-style multipurpose dining and activity rooms for short-term, long-term and dementia neighborhoods. This new style of service allows the entrée to be prepared in the main kitchen and delivered to the new dining room, complete with a pantry kitchen. The food is kept hot in the pantry kitchen, then plated and served to residents as they request their meals. Beverages, desserts and other cold selections are easily accessible from the pantry kitchen refrigerator.

Prior to the renovation, food was plated in the main kitchen and delivered on trays via carts to the residents’ rooms. Instead of tray-line systems, which is institutional and limits what healthcare residents can order, residents now have the opportunity to socialize while they enjoy fresh, delicious, home-style food in a new and cheery environment.

The new dining areas also serve as activity centers. Tables and chairs break down easily to allow for recreation, or residents may enjoy a movie or surf the web on the new flat-screen TV’s.

Food service at the new Hanna HealthCare Center at Longwood in Oakmont, PA also removed their tray-line system and “decentralized” to free-standing country kitchens. Similar to the pantry kitchen concept, the country kitchen is larger and resembles a kitchen from home complete with appliances. In addition to the entrees (which are kept hot in attractive steam tables out of view and surrounded by a large counter top), soups and sandwiches — as well as quick-serve items — such as hot dogs and grilled cheese, are easily prepared to order by request. Residents, with the assistance of recreational services staff, also may use the country kitchen to prepare food.

“Residents look forward to eating in the country kitchen because of its openness to living and activity areas. This increases socialization, mobility (as they need to walk to the dining room) and overall well-being,” says Michael K. Haye, executive director of Longwood at Oakmont,

Convenience is another dining trend that older adults enjoy. For example, at Sherwood Oaks in Cranberry Township, PA, residents requested grab-and-go options. To accommodate their request, a cart was constructed that offers fruits, soups and sandwiches twice a week. The cart concept was so popular that Sherwood Oaks incorporated a grab-and-go section in their dining room renovations. The grab-and-go section offers a variety of food that’s packaged in bio-based green-ware. Open daily, residents may choose from freshly cut fruit, yogurt with granola, desserts, fresh salads, sandwiches on homemade breads and assorted beverages.

A small area for grab-and-go groceries includes: milk, eggs, boxed cereals, deli meats, loaves of bread and other convenience items.

Older adults are also more aware and better educated on the key health benefits of the food they eat. In fact, it’s important for them to know where their food is grown and harvested. Residents of The Bridges at Bent Creek in Mechanicsburg, PA, are part of this “growing” trend. Residents rolled up their sleeves and participated in the Bridges first Grower’s Day in May of 2009 where they planted vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, peppers, arugula and tomatoes. With the help and instruction of a local green house owner, the residents were educated on how to plant, water, and care for the plants in the six beds constructed by dining services. The “harvest” from the garden is used by the Bridges executive chef to prepare foods and is identified with a customized logo when the foods are featured on the menu.

To further enhance the Bridges sustainable efforts, a composter was purchased so that the community’s pre-consumer food waste consisting of vegetable waste and wood material (cardboard, leaves and woodchips) can be composted on-site and returned back to their garden to fertilize naturally.

Wellness compliments good nutrition and continues to take center stage with seniors. Today’s senior living administrators provide education through many venues in hopes that independent and assisted living residents will be empowered to make informed decisions about healthier food choices, keeping fit to obtain optimal health, disease prevention, and maintaining a greater degree of independence. Wellness workshops may tackle trans-fatty acids and heart disease, exercise and nutrition, diet trends and fads, organic foods, and living with diseases. Dining services will also create customized nutrition plans and menus and organize wellness events that provide residents and patients the opportunity to utilize health experts and take part in health screenings.

About The Author, Kimmi Campagna
A veteran of the food service industry, Kimmi Campagna joined Cura Hospitality in 2005 as general manager for Windber Medical Center, Windber, PA, one of the first hospitals in the country to join Cura in its elimination of trans-fats from patient and on-site restaurant menus. Ms. Campagna also served as opening general manager for Mercy Medical Center, Baltimore, MD, an acute care facility where she helped to coordinate the purchase of locally-grown, chemical-free food for patient, guest and staff meals; and most recently as senior general manager responsible for Cura’s hospital systems development, management training and opening team coordinator.

In 2008, Ms. Campagna was promoted to director of partnership development. In this position, Ms. Campagna cultivates new business partnerships with prospective senior living community and hospital clients in Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, Maryland and West Virginia.

A graduate of Penn State University, Ms. Campagna is a certified dietary manager and holds an associate degree in dietetics systems management.

About Cura Hospitality
Cura Hospitality is a highly responsive and innovative dining services and hospitality provider dedicated to a mission of Enhancing Life Around Great Food . Cura serves over 60 senior living communities and hospitals in the mid-Atlantic region. Cura’s culinary, guest service and clinical professionals provide hospitality and clinical care to more than 20,000 residents, patients and guests each day. Visit us at