Deb Tastic, Senior Living Extraordinaire
Many believe that a dynamic dining program ends between meal times. That’s when you have a chance to stand out from the crowd. Keep your chefs engaged with the residents by creating award-winning programs that revolve around food. Here are a few ideas to get you started.Build garden beds out back or in your community courtyards – any place accessible for all residents’ level of mobility. Get them involved by growing vegetables and herbs your chef can use in their dishes. “Dirt Therapy” is a real thing and studies find that those who garden are happier and better self-actualized. It’s no different for seniors. Make the garden areas part of community tours. If your residents happen to be planting, watering, weeding, even BETTER!Include outings to the local farmer’s market with your residents and chefs. What a great opportunity to buy local, food education, and give residents an opportunity to select ingredients to be used in that week’s menu! Also, most farmer’s markets have a plethora of fresh flowers. Have the residents choose which flowers will adorn their tables and community spaces that week. Make a point to highlight these outings in your conversations with prospective residents and family members.We are never too old to learn. Have your community’s chef provide cooking demonstrations. Offer recipes that the residents could replicate in their apartments. Or do an ice sculpting class – allowing your chefs to flex their culinary muscles. Encourage the residents to experiment and expand their palates by sampling and discussing culture-centric foods. Invite prospects to these interactive classes.Promote a sense of purpose. Get your residents involved. Take cooking classes on the road to local income-restricted senior living communities and senior centers. Host a peer-to-peer education class. Teach those seniors how to cook delicious healthy meals and provide them with ingredients to recreate in their apartments. Highlight this in marketing materials, monthly newsletters, and hold campaign drives to collect ingredients and cooking utensils for the classes.Tastes and comfort foods change based on the seasons. So should your menus. Hold a quarterly “Taste the Season” hour for your potential residents and family members. Instead of doing a sit-down meal, have sample sizes as they wander through your community getting a casual, yet informative experience of all that you have to offer.Leave the group Lunch and Learns in the past. Offer folks who tour around lunch time, well, lunch. You need to eat and they need eat AND hear about your community. Make your lunches intimate and one-on-one. Your tours have little time and most will not come back for a “free” meal. Catch them while you can and boast your most delectable feature – FOOD!Post pictures of your own food in all of your marketing materials. Maybe, start an Instagram Page with pictures, recipes and quick video tutorials. Highlight internal special event nights with signage around your community. These are great talking points on the tour highlighting that the specialness of your dining program does not stop once the resident moves in.Food is the heart and soul of any home, and in your case, community. It possesses the power to dismantle walls and open communication through its creative expression – sharing unlike any other medium. Connecting on this intimate, vulnerable level is a sure way to quickly find some future residents.