The inaugural Aged Care Catering Summit was held last month in May as part of Foodservice Australia 2018.
The full day summit brought together a wide variety of experts in the Aged Care industry to talk about the current trends and innovations in catering for the elderly.
We sent two delegates from Unilever Food Solutions to find out the latest in Aged Care catering.
1) It’s the little things
Aged Care has always endured budgetary challenges, so any innovation, which comes at a zero cost is always welcome.
The conference highlighted the need for small ideas that can make a big difference to the lives of the elderly and the way they are able to enjoy and experience food and meal times.
Cherie Hugo from the Lantern Project showcased some of the ideas which arose from the Lantern Aged Care Food Safaris. Simple changes such as using silicon spatulas in the kitchen to reduce the amount of kitchen noise, which can further impair people’s ability to hear and understand the conversations around them during meal times.
Other ideas included:
- Creating a personalised dining area so residents felt more at home - items such as photographs of family and friends, favourite vases filled with flowers all help people feel welcome and relaxed at meal times.
- Ensuring the dining room smells like food. Aroma is one of the most effective ways to increase appetite and helps people to remember to eat.
- Serving food in ways that evoke memories - fish and chips wrapped in newspaper for example.
- Involving residents in the process of preparing food, taking them shopping, encouraging them to help serve food and even tidy up after a meal can help people feel valued but more importantly make them feel more like they would at home.
Find small things that you can easily integrate into your food service, which makes a resident’s face light up. The beauty of this approach is that it is easy to try out new ideas and quickly gauge the effect it has, without impacting costs.
2) The future will be here soon
One of the biggest challenges facing Aged Care is the rising expectation of both residents and the families of residents.
The challenges are two-fold in that the standard of living has risen significantly in a single generation and the need for specific diets has also increased, and is expected to increase.
What this means for Aged Care Chefs is that the next wave of residents will have a new set of needs which will require more service-based changes to the way food is served as well as having to cater to specific dietary needs.
Understanding the predominant trends in service and diet will be key for Chefs who want to adapt to the changes which will happen in Aged Care as the demographic of the residents evolves.
3) The ‘experience of food’ is everything
The dining experience is fast transitioning from a clinical function to a hospitality style service. Staff are more frequently expected to interact with residents as though they are customers (which indeed they are) and provide the kind of service expected in the hospitality industry.
But not only will food service need to transform, but the food experience will also need to be more considered.
The connections between visually attractive, delicious smelling food and the increase in food consumption in the elderly have long been anecdotally understood, however the deliberate process of ensuring that the whole experience of food is enjoyable and delightful is increasingly becoming part of the food service process in Aged Care.
Think about what you can do to engage your residents’ senses around meal times. It can be as simple as making sure the smell of toast and bacon greet people as they arrive for breakfast, to making sure all meals are presented in a visually appealing way.