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There is a good reason why many people love to dine at restaurants. The act of eating together is a long-standing tradition across many cultures. We celebrate milestones and share accomplishments over meals. We hold rituals over cooking and regional food, with recipes and repetition creating a comforting atmosphere. Dining together gives us connection, helps us form new friendships, and even makes us healthier!

In retirement home communities, you not only have three chef-prepared meals available per day, seven days a week, but you can enjoy those meals with friends in a restaurant-style setting. It’s the perfect time to meet up with friends, share stories and get life updates. A meal is more than just a meal for people in senior housing – communal dining can be beneficial to your mental and physical health:

 

Stress Relief from Cooking and Cleaning

Cooking a well-balanced meal could be an exhausting commitment, from planning the meal, gathering ingredients, preparing, and cooking. Cleaning up after the meal can take just as long. Illness or physical conditions might make cooking a greater challenge. It can be easy to lose interest in cooking dinners for yourself. “As we age, especially when aging in an independent setting, it can be harder to get around in terms of getting to the grocery store, and preparing food,” says Chef Sean Danahy, Culinary Director for Holiday Retirement. “A lot of the things that we do day-to-day can become a little bit more burdensome.”

But in retirement home communities, you can eat healthy meals without all the bother. "We have approximately 400 chefs within our senior living communities that are supporting our residents," says Chef Sean. "Our Executive Chefs operate their kitchens just like a high-end restaurant. You have a culinary team involved in your meal preparation – servers, cooks, dishwashers, the executive chef, the sous chef, and on and on."

You can enjoy a meal with good company, and avoid the hassle of cooking and cleaning. Your daily stress levels are reduced, and you can enjoy more of your day. Here’s another bonus – you no longer have to worry about "off" smells, missed expiration dates, or wilting of expensive produce. "We take away a lot of the burden – buying groceries, preparing, serving... it makes the day a little bit less labor intensive," adds Chef Sean.

 

You Can Make Healthy Choices for a Healthy Outlook

Sometimes the burden of cooking in retirement homes leads to eating convenience foods, or having meals that lack nutritional balance. That could eventually play a role in physical problems such as weight loss, weakened immune systems, and poor bone health.

Your medications might reduce your appetite, and even dental problems or dry mouth can affect proper eating habits. Community dining in your retirement home offers a variety of meal options, so you can choose what works best for you.

Nutritious entrees and side dishes are available so you can make food choices that help you remain healthy and active. "Our chefs make your food from scratch," says Chef Sean. "When it says muffins, it's a muffin recipe that is from scratch. I provide a menu for chefs, but they make it [using their own recipes]. You can't do that when you buy a product."

Studies have shown that people in senior apartments tend to choose balanced meals when they dine with others. Eating at communal tables in straight-backed chairs helps with digestion, and diners eat more slowly when listening to others. Those who take meals in senior living dining rooms even tend to eat more vegetables – a source of antioxidants and important nutrients – when they share a meal with friends instead of eating alone.

chicken, nut and strawberry salad entrée

 

Give Your Brain a Boost

Lively conversation over a delicious meal can even promote brain health! Social dining triggers the production of hormones that help mood, improve digestion, and help cognition. Social dining has even been proven to boost your self-esteem and increase your confidence. You can enhance your overall health by not only meeting your nutritional needs with three balanced meals per day, but by eating in the company of others.

 

Get Your Beauty Sleep

Did you know that inadequate intake of nutrients such as Vitamin D can affect your sleep quality? Studies show that low intake of Vitamin D can lead to poor sleep patterns. Regular balanced meals will ensure you have the proper amounts of nutrients to keep you sleeping well and staying active.

And here is the best news! Dining with others is believed to slow the effects of aging!

Liberalized Dining Gives You Flexibility

Holiday Retirement's flexibility of its nationwide menus is part of Chef Sean’s ‘liberalized’ dining approach. A liberalized diet allows you to make more decisions about retirement home menu choices. The idea is to meet your nutritional needs with a variety of entrees, keeping meals interesting while being mindful of local favorites. Knowing that many residents in their retirement communities want more than just bland, unappealing meals, our Executive Chefs create three daily meals, all with superior quality, flavor, and variety.

Chef Sean works with Executive Chefs and Sous Chefs nationwide, including senior housing near me, to create menus using an "80/20 Rule." Chef Sean plans 80% of the menu, with local Holiday Chefs lining up the other 20% with local needs in mind. The 80/20 Rule gives your Chef the ability to include local favorites, or exchange items (such as rice for potatoes) in a meal. This allows the flexibility for each retirement home community to enjoy the best foods of the region.

As Executive Chef Sean says, “It doesn’t matter how healthy something is, if people don’t want to eat it!” For a peek at some of Chef Sean's delicious meals, take a look at this summer menu in senior apartments near me and in other Holiday Retirement homes.

Seniors talking with dining room staff

 

Find Support and Connection

Research shows that if you share a meal with someone, you will automatically develop a certain comfort level with them. Researchers have found that approximately 85% of seniors say that meals are more satisfying when they are shared with someone else. Most survey participants point to stimulating conversation as one of the most important benefits to retirement home dining. People who dine with others also have a wider social network that offers social and emotional support. And feelings of closeness and comradery are especially strong when laughter and storytelling happens along with the meal.

Those important connections don't stop with friends in your retirement homes. You get to know your chef, servers, and housekeepers on a personal level. "The holidays are times when the food service shines. But when it comes down to the day to day, I know our chefs love their residents," says Chef Sean. "They're like family members to them. When there's a birthday opportunity, or when someone's doing a card game, and they want to bring out some snacks, those are the best day to day examples of how our chefs impact the lives of our residents."

Chef talking with 2 senior residents and a guest during a meal