the new role of national liaison for Jewish communities. One of Blazer’s first projects in that role was to form a team to create a 12-page Passover guide with history and recipes. The team will create a guide for each Jewish holiday. Every Morrison com- munity will have access to the guides. In mainstream communities, cultural foods can be an enrichment opportunity for everyone. The idea of “cultural foods” can and

should be interpreted creatively. One of Blazer’s Jewish communities in California invited celebrity chef Jet Tila to come in and show the residents how to make kosher

Asian cuisine. He cooked a meal, then went into the dining room to mingle. “It was a lot of fun and super-engaging for the resi- dents,” Blazer says.

Tastes and memories Cooking demonstrations, especially if they’re hands-on, are an effective way to bring back memories and keep food tradi- tions alive. Accessing those memories and talking about them is especially valuable for residents in memory care. “Get creative and think outside the box on how to get residents engaged in the pro-

cess,” Blazer says. “When they’re engaged in food, they’re much happier.” Helping people with dementia partic-

ipate more fully in the dining experience requires creativity and patience from staff. Sodexo’s B program addresses some of those challenges with elements such as hand-held foods for residents who have difficulty handling utensils. It also offers guidance about how to arrange place set- tings and how to present menu options in a way that allows memory care residents to choose their meals and eat with a minimum of frustration.


• In dining venues, appeal to all the senses by considering acoustics, aromas, décor, lighting, and the tactile sensations of the tabletops and utensils. Sensory experience can be particularly engaging and enjoyable in memory care dining.

• Look at your dining venues from the residents’ perspective. If you didn’t have to eat there every day, what would make you want to come back again?

• Bring in food trucks or a few farm market tents so residents can take part in these trends.

• Try offering casual and picnic food for outside dining with visitors on the weekends.

• As some senior living communities build teaching and demonstration kitchens, consider getting chefs from provider communities in the same region, student chefs from a culinary or trade school, culinary workers who want more career experience, or local restaurant chefs, to keep the space lively and surprising.

• Even if you don’t have a demonstration kitchen or a place to cook together, food-related events for small groups aren’t off the table. You might try:

» A “what’s in season” sampling with fruits and vegetables from a farm market

» A class on discovering herbs and spices » Creating custom herb and spice blends

» Sampling different varieties of the same food, such as apples, tomatoes, or grapes

» Classes on nutrition with a tasting of better options, lower-salt, or lower-sugar items

» A tea or coffee tasting

• Volunteer activities can get not only residents, but also families and loved ones involved. Food drives can appeal to visitors, as can special items sold with proceeds donated.

• Residents interested in sustainability and food access issues can help track food waste and develop ways to conserve and reduce energy and waste.

• Be willing to adapt to changing times. To stay competitive, keep up to date with current trends. Better yet, try to think ahead.

• Encourage residents to try new things, whether it’s a new menu item, a new venue, or a cooking class.

• Add interest to the daily dining experience. In addition to offering varied menu items, consider making some meals feel more special by using tablecloths only at certain times. Playing music or encouraging costumes or hats can be fun and engaging.

• Ask residents for their input about food and dining preferences, including cooking classes or food-related volunteer opportunities they’d like to do.

• Many residents and employees are interested in sharing their traditions, cultures, and foodways. Special lunches or dinners planned by a small group of residents and employees together can become a friendly experience in learning, with food, decorations, and even music all playing a part. Or go simpler with a special dessert offering, or an afternoon tasting party.

• Above all, make sure the food you offer is the best it can be!


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