Try to remember the most recent meal you ate with a group of people. Perhaps it was a gathering to celebrate a birthday over the weekend with your family. It may have been a visit to a local café for coffee with a few close friends. Regardless of what your experience may have been, the presence of good company and food provided you with more than just a shared meal but also a positive social experience. These examples speak to the powerful role food plays within our lives. The experience of sharing a meal together serves as an opportunity to socialize and connect with those around us. While a shared meal may be a common occurrence for many people, this opportunity doesn’t always present itself for others. Understanding the potential benefits of meal time and how to transform it into a positive social experience can positively impact seniors’ nutritional status and quality of life.
Unleash the Potential of Meal Time
Meal times can be a daily opportunity to help foster communication and human connection. Socializing during meal times has been shown to have a strong impact on improved overall food intake and reduced rates of malnutrition. It has also been shown that residents of care settings with lower socialization during meal time have lower body weights compared to care settings where more socialization is present.
There are many factors that influence a senior’s meal time experience. The dining experience for seniors who live independently in the community is influenced by food access, food knowledge and cooking skills, and having a strong family and friend support system. There are many creative strategies that can help seniors dine with dignity and enjoyment in a retirement setting.
Strategies for positive social dining:
- Plan lunch with a neighbour and order in from your favorite restaurant
- Invite family or friends for a fun potluck
- Attend monthly celebrations that boast fun décor and themed meals.
- Take advantage of our open dining environment where residents can choose where they would like to sit and with whom.
- Attend weekend brunches and invite family members to join
- “Meet the Chef” and chefs table offer an excellent opportunity for our team members to showcase their talents
- Outdoor BBQs and smokers also connect the chef and residents
- Members of our culinary team learn about their integral role of stimulating socialization with residents
- Attend monthly culinary meetings to provide feedback on menu development and quality reviews
Dining together can improve nutritional status and quality of life. Imagine the stories told between neighbours as they share their favourite lunch together. Consider the laughter and chatter as you enter a dining room as residents and tenants enjoy a wine and cheese event. Understanding and implementing strategies to improve the social experience during meal time can make the experience extend beyond food!
Adapted from: “A time to eat a time to connect: Social dining for Seniors” Nourish (Fall 2018), Sysco, Kaitlin Chard