Dining a key ingredient for seniors’ happiness
Dining is an art and meals should please the palate, not just satiate the appetite.
This observation from 18th century Chinese gastronomic expert Yuan Mei rings true centuries later – including in our seniors’ communities.
No longer is the “one meal for all” model of aged care food accepted by seniors.
Carinity Aged Care creates customised menus for residents according to their personal taste preferences, with nutritious meals prepared by skilled chefs and cooks.
Carinity Hospitality Services Manager Selena Argentati says the dining experience in aged care is evolving.
“The aged care dining experience is quickly adjusting – with the expectation of restaurant-quality meals which Carinity is delivering,” Selena explains.
“All meals are freshly made on site by our catering team. Each wing of Carinity’s aged care communities has a dedicated kitchen and dining area where residents dine together.
“We have employed chefs or experienced cooks at every site to maintain the high standard of food, presentation and quality expected by our residents, family members and ourselves.”
A professional flavour
Gilles Bourguignon began his career in hospitality in France in 1979 and has since worked in the aged care sector and at resorts, clubs and restaurants.
He is now the chef at Carinity Shalom aged care in Rockhampton where he is helping to shift misconceptions about food service in seniors’ communities.
“I think there is a misconception that aged care food is bland and non-nutritious,” Gilles says.
“My goals at Carinity Shalom are to provide the best dining experience we can offer by making the meals look appetising, high in nutrients and taste amazing.”
Like all Carinity chefs, he has embraced the “new age” of cooking for seniors which involves an emphasis on choice of meals and “taking the dining experience to the next level”.
“It is becoming the new way of cooking for aged care residents to give them more choice. Anything a resident would like we can cook for them,” Gilles explains.
“I often have requests for something special that the resident likes which I can prepare provided we have the stock to cook it for them.
“Here at Carinity Shalom we source the freshest of ingredients and cook them to perfection to provide the residents with the most nutritious and flavoursome variety of meals that we can offer. We get compliments all the time.”
Indulging with food
Carinity provides six meals each day – of a residents’ choice – and available at any time of the day including main meals, morning and afternoon teas, supper and healthy snacks such as fresh fruit.
All meals are cooked on site using up to 95 per cent locally sourced fresh produce.
Carinity’s hospitality team have received extensive education to enhance residents’ dining experience and “ensure every mealtime is like a family dinner”.
Families are invited to gather with residents to share a private meal, with chefs and cooks able to cater for private functions and special occasions on site.
“We all love indulging with good food when sitting around people we love. Our residents enjoy the social aspect of dining with friends, family and their new community,” Selena says.
As well as the alluring aroma of freshly prepared food, the enhanced presentation of meals stimulates residents’ taste buds.
Main meals are plated in front of the seated residents, this sparks the resident’s senses as the dining area fills with aromas of the meals.
The visual appeal of residents’ food can be enhanced by food moulds, which are being implemented across all Carinity aged care communities.
“Given our residents’ appetites are often affected by their physical health conditions, the presentation of the meal is vital to assist with stimulating them and encouraging them to take the first bite,” Selena says.
Food moulds allow chefs to reconstitute the texture of food to look the same as other meals, making them look appetising and enticing to eat.
“These moulds shape food to look exactly like regular meals making the visual, eating and dining experience much more enjoyable for residents on texture modified diets,” Selena says.
A focus on choice
Offering a greater choice of cuisine is a key ingredient to the resident experience in Carinity aged care communities.
“Previously, there was a choice of one hot meal. We now have a choice of two hot meals and two cold meals each meal service. We have listened closely to our residents and the two hot choices consist of one hearty choice and a lighter option,” Selena says.
Menus are reviewed thoroughly by dietitians, speech pathologists and Carinity’s Hospitality Services Manager, staff, residents and family members.
Often the health and wellbeing of new residents improve when they join a Carinity community.
“Many older people find it challenging to prepare substantial meals at home, particularly if they are living alone or have a poor appetite,” Carinity Aged Care Regional Manager Kathy Nicholls says.
“At Carinity, we’re able to serve a range of meals that often results in an improvement in the nutrition of our residents and delivers all the benefits of a healthy, varied diet.”
Jenni Smith, who cooks at the Carinity Karinya Place aged care community in Laidley, says the input from residents used to create the evolving menus is invaluable.
“We ask our residents for their ideas before we start working on the menu, then we create the menu according to their likes and this goes to the dietician to review,” Jenni says.
On top of the regular menu, residents can enjoy “all-time favourite” treats such as slushees, ice-cream, milkshakes, coffee, popcorn and pancakes.
Carinity Cedarbrook chef Vanessa Turnbull also enjoys making residents’ favourite dishes including special themed menus such as international cuisine.
“I like working with families to find the best way to meet the residents’ needs,” Vanessa says.
“When the residents are happy is when I’m most satisfied.”