Senior Dining Programs Shift During Pandemic to Keep Residents Safe and Smiling

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Senior living communities are accountable for the health, safety, and well-being of one of the most vulnerable populations. This has proven to be especially true now, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Residents living in retirement communities and independent living facilities have a higher risk of becoming very sick if they contract the virus. This is due to their age and an increased likelihood they are living with a serious chronic medical condition.

To help stop the spread of the virus within these communities, senior residents have been quarantined to their rooms. Visits from family and friends prohibited. Dining no longer includes chatting with friends and loved ones while enjoying a meal. Senior dining operators quickly shifted to keep residents safe and well-nourished while dining rooms and on-campus eateries are closed.

Foodservice Operators Get Creative in Senior Dining

Senior dining programs evolved almost overnight as foodservice operators implemented creative, new ways* to keep residents safe and satisfied, like:

  • Grocery Services: Whether it be fruit, canned goods, juice, or disposable products like napkins or tissues, residents need access to groceries. Online ordering lets residents place orders from the foodservice department’s online menu to be delivered directly to their room. Residents remain safely quarantined while still having access to desired grocery items. Staff members can also utilize grocery ordering to minimize trips to a store and further support social distancing.
  • Meal Replacement Menus: With the closure of dining areas across senior living communities, dining operators are providing takeaway or take-home meals. In care facilities where residents can cook, meal replacement menus provide a safe and efficient way to support their independence. Staff members can also order take-home meals for their families, minimizing contact with others and trips to the store.
  • Limited Catering: Social distancing has caused a reduction in traditional catering orders and larger group events. However, some senior living staff are working much longer hours. Offering a limited catering menu has been a great way to feed employees and keep them energized. Catering to staff boosts morale during the added stress of operating during a pandemic.

Senior Dining Keeps Residents Smiling

Mandatory quarantine was the best way to flatten the curve and reduce the spread of coronavirus in high-risk elderly communities. It’s also important to recognize that being alone takes a heavy toll on mental health. To help combat isolation and loneliness in senior communities, the Senior Dining Association (SDA) implemented an initiative called Operation Connect.

Operation Connect matches industry partners of the SDA, like CaterTrax, with senior living communities where residents could use some encouragement. Participating organizations create pieces of cheer like positive messages, letters, and drawings, which are delivered to residents with their regularly scheduled meals. CaterTrax was eager to participate and sent almost 200 items of cheer to Hamptons Senior Living in Tyler, Texas.

Watch this video to see what the CaterTrax Team created!

Now more than ever, it’s critical to stay positive and support one another. While we remain 6 feet apart, initiatives like Operation Connect keep us connected and remind us that together, we can combat isolation.

If you’re interested in participating, please click here to connect with the Senior Dining Association.

*To learn more about driving revenue in any non-commercial foodservice operation with Grocery, Meal Replacement, or Limited Catering solutions, please click here.

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