Senior living trends are evolving to include more sophisticated and varied dining options. Here are tips on applying those trends.
If you think you’ve figured out the impact of baby boomers’ on senior living trends, it might be time to think again. This generation might not severely outnumber millennials, but their buying power is massive ($2.1 trillion vs. $170 billion) and they’re using that financial leverage to continually shape and evolve their lifestyle expectations.
It’s essential that decision-makers around senior dining experiences not only pay attention to these expectations, but also work to implement them if they want to stay ahead of the curve and continue to create dining spaces that not only attract, but also satisfy and delight older Americans.
First off, it’s important to understand that seniors as an overall population are constantly shifting, and, today, the desires of that population are being heavily shaped by baby boomers.
New entrants into the senior population will be highly accustomed to the experience of dining out. They will want what’s familiar (in terms of both food and atmosphere), but with a twist. They are social, health-conscious and value-seeking. To help keep your new and existing seniors happy and engaged in their living spaces, here are a few considerations to keep in mind, especially in terms of dining.
1. Make Menus Interesting
Seniors will be looking for menus that are interesting, but grounded in the flavor experiences they grew up with, according to Gordon Food Service. Since smell and taste receptors can tend to fall off as people age, make sure to emphasize bold flavors (including sauces and spice rubs) that pack a flavorful punch.
Keep in mind, though, that creating menus that appeal to seniors will require an art in balancing the new and the familiar. While they will want more pronounced flavors, know that they will still be looking for some ties to the dishes that they find familiar.
Additionally, Gordon Food Service suggests not ignoring breakfast and snacks. While these areas can tend toward blandness, seniors will continue their desire for more intense flavors and new twists on traditional dishes even in less substantial meals. Snacks should be fast and convenient (to match active senior lifestyles), but should also involve some sort of creativity to keep them interesting.
Overall, try to keep things healthy. Seniors are becomingly increasingly health-conscious and will expect variety that supports their personal health goals.
2. Focus on Dining Environments
As mentioned before, today’s seniors’ expectations of dining experiences are heavily shaped by mainstream dining trends. That means that keeping up with senior living trends will mean understanding how to create meal experiences that are interactive and go beyond just satisfying hunger.
This means integrating dining experiences into everyday life through things like:
- Multiple spaces to facilitate meals
- Various styles of dining being made available
- Flexible access hours
- Mimicking the features of a traditional restaurant
As senior living trends move to accommodate interaction with the outside community, it will also be important to consider that not all your diners will be of the older variety. Menus, dining room organizations and schedules should consider the fact that your seniors will likely be enhancing their lives by inviting friends, family and other members of the outside community to join them in their dining experiences.
3. Keep Health on the Front Burner
Today’s seniors are living longer and want to maintain a high quality of life as they age. Wellness programs are a major factor in achieving this goal and connecting them with dining and spatial planning can be highly beneficial in creating senior living spaces that promote health in comprehensive ways.
Dining spaces and menus should be outgrowths of organizational wellness plans with menus that take senior interest in mental and physical well-being into consideration. They should also be informed by dining needs before, during and after activities. For example, residents and visitors engaging in fitness and yoga classes will have different dining interests than someone coming in for a quick lunch or filling dinner.
Overall, designing living and dining experiences that are in tune with senior living trends will revolve around a continuous connection with seniors’ desires and lifestyle goals. Stay in communication with your senior population and you’ll have no problem innovating in the world of senior dining experiences.