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Senior Dining Has an All-New Recipe

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Much like fine wines and cheeses—and people, to be sure—some things get better with age. And in what is being heralded as a significant improvement over the way things used to be, today’s senior dining programs are evolving away from the one-size-fits-all models of old and doing much to give residents more control over what is unquestionably an improved overall dining experience.

Finer culinary quality and impressive optionality lead the way as senior dining programs adapt to fit the demands and expectations of a new generation of seniors who prioritize convenience and choice. So grab a menu, so to speak, and look for these new options, which can help unlock more value and provide a dining experience that closely follows each individual’s own likes and preferences. 

A Shift in Favor of All-Inclusive Dining

While limited or à la carte dining options haven’t gone away everywhere, the tides are gradually shifting towards all-inclusive dining becoming something of a new standard. As part of ongoing efforts to provide the luxurious, resort-style experience, the freedom to dine at one’s own discretion is seen as elevating the overall value.

As the name implies, all-inclusive dining means there’s no set number of meals allowed each day, or a week, or month. Residents can eat every meal all month long if they so choose, and it’s all just part of an all-inclusive formula that sees dining costs rolled directly into the monthly rent. With that, there’s one financial transaction each month that essentially unlocks every available amenity and dining destination community-wide, and from there, no additional money needs to change hands until the following month. And that affords residents and families peace of mind knowing that all essential needs can and will be met for the forthcoming month.        

The Emergence of Multiple Dining Options

Plenty of senior living communities have been borrowing a page or two from the cruise ship playbook by making multiple, distinct dining options available to residents. Sure, the main dining room is still the primary option, but alternative settings like bars and lounges, bistros and coffee shops, and even al fresco dining destinations are popping up that provide unprecedented optionality and culinary variety.  

Indeed, gone are the days when only two or three meal choices were being served, and there was only one place—the main dining room—to go and get them. Today, given the emergence of multiple dining options, it’s easier than ever to order off a diverse menu in the dining room, or opt for a soup and sandwich in the bistro, or a freshly baked pizza and draft beer in the sports bar, or even seek further choices elsewhere.

Here again, it’s part of ongoing initiatives to create an overall dining experience that’s more diverse and resident-driven than what was available in prior years.        

Anytime Dining and Everyday Menu Items

No doubt empowered by the immediacy with which people can now access information and products on the Internet, today’s consumers now expect to be able to have what they want whenever they want it. And that change in prevailing consumer attitudes is why the old days of rigid, set dining hours are phasing out across the senior living industry and being replaced by various, anytime dining programs.

Under the new, anytime models, the dining room and/or alternative dining destinations in many senior living communities are technically open all day long, even in between the standard seating times that may still surround breakfast, lunch, and dinner service. That makes it possible for residents to eat when they say it’s time, without having set dining hours imposed upon them.

It means they can sleep in, for example, and eat a late breakfast around 10 or 11. And it also ensures they won’t miss out on lunch or dinner service if ever outside commitments like medical or other appointments run longer than anticipated and cause late arrivals. 

But there’s also newfound optionality regarding what to eat, too.

That’s because, with everyday menu options, staple dishes and local or community favorites are always served; every meal, every day, and any time of day. From signature burgers and sandwiches to soup and salad choices, and even pasta and specialty omelets, anytime menu options create a breadth of choices that nicely complement each day’s chef-prepared meals and specials.

To see some of the variety and everyday menu items that are helping to transform the modern senior dining experience, check out this sample menu.

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