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Apr 13, 2013 12:21 PM

Menus and Recipes for Senior Citizens

The food at my mother's Senior Living Complex is so very mediocre. I understand their constraints - budget, trying to please everyone, nutritional needs/restrictions, etc.

They say are very open to suggestions and recipes, however.

I have had a few ideas, such as whole grain and vegetable salads. I want to convince then to stop buying preportioned solution-injected proteins; they are expensive, you are paying for water and therefore less protein, and it is difficult to control the sodium content. The baked goods are so light and white and sweet that they might as well be made from cotton candy. Challenges are ahead here.

There is pretty good variety, but all of the food is very old-fashioned; I say, this group of people might be elderly, but they are educated and financially successful individuals who can therefore appreciate a few more modern dishes. We should give them credit for this, not dumb down everything just because they're old!

Anyway, any menu or recipe ideas out there? Our efforts here might help others who make food for seniors, as well...

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  1. I'm dealing with this issue myself now. Fact of the matter is, our sense of taste becomes less acute as we age. In my father's case, the sense of smell has also diminished. Getting him to eat anything at all, especially given the mediocre food in his apartment building, is a challenge. The OT's and PT's, one of whom is my SIL, say that the ability to taste sweet remains long after others have gone. Taking that direction may be of some help.

    1 Reply
    1. re: rockycat

      My mom actually has a very healthy appetite still; I just worry about what she is eating there, regarding both health and enjoyment!

    2. Some changes may be dependent on what level of licensing her facility has: some levels have very strict requirements re: certain amounts of proteins, vegetables etc, for every meal and snack, so any menu changes must take that into account. Plus, some facilities, by license, must have a registered dietitian if not on staff, at least on consult--the RD could be a great source of information.

      Hope you and the staff can make some tasty changes!

      1. I interned with Alzheimer's and dementia patients in my last year of college. One residence I went to was a huge building with cafeteria. This is one of the high end ones but I don't recall the food, except that there were a few choices for each meal.

        Another residency was a home setting which had 4-6 elderly. There were 2 staff that I knew and they were Filipino. I got close to one of them and she said she'd even cook them Filipino adobo sometimes and they loved it. The residents there were all Caucasian and we don't have that many Filipino restaurants in north San Diego, so I'm guessing this may have been a first time for them.

        Of course this was within diet constraints, and cut up nicely by time of serving. They were of varying degrees in their illness. Some of them ate anything in front of them (which was pretty bad when one of the naughtier residents decided to put foam letters in another's plate) while others were a bit more picky.

        I guess I just wanted to say that they still love good food and a variety of it, so it is a pity and I hope you are successful in persuading them.

        Stews are pretty easy to cook and can be adjusted for differing diets. I don't know what the set-up is like, if there are even people there that can cook past reheating frozen items, but maybe ask them what sort of things they cook?

        At the home residence family were allowed to bring food as well. This was monitored obviously, but sometimes it would cause fights at the table! When one would get jealous about the others meal, hence the foam letters incident.

        1 Reply
        1. re: youareabunny

          You are a brave person to tackle that work!

        2. Have you looked at the recipe section of AARP? They have some wonderful menu ideas, recipe files and meal discussion on the site.

          1 Reply
          1. re: HillJ

            Good idea - I'll try that...

            I found that Cooking Lite (Light?) has some pretty good recipes for this situation, as well....not one of my normal go-tos for food ideas, but maybe it should be!

          2. I'd suggest before any changes are proposed, that the center conduct a poll and find out how the residents feel about the food they're currently being served and what, if any, changes they'd like to see. Serving them what they'll eat is more important, IMO, than serving them something perhaps healthier that they won't eat or won't eat as much of. I didn't see many obese residents where my late MIL lived. They need those calories :)

            1 Reply
            1. re: c oliver

              They try to get feedback from residents, but the results are not generally helpful. They complain, then the chef asks what they'd like to see changed, then they don't really know, then someone says, "hot dogs!" see how that goes. I'm hoping that I can find ideas that are feasible.