One of the most difficult and emotional aspects of aging for many seniors is the loss of independence. When it comes to eating, some people eventually lose the ability and opportunity to eat their favorite meals or dine with others, relying on smoothies for their meals, boring mashed and pureed fruit and vegetables, or someone to cut their food and feed it to them.
This can happen due to a loss of cognitive function or impaired motor skills that make using a knife and fork difficult or impossible. Seniors suffering from Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia are particularly affected by this dilemma.
An innovative new program that turns traditional, large plated dinners into upscale finger food is being introduced at Inspired Living, a trailblazing memory care community in Sarasota.
The Grate Eats! program at Inspired Living lets seniors eat entrée foods such as chicken or salmon or steak, along with their favorite sides, without needing utensils. Instead of being served a whole salmon filet or baked potato, senior diners get elegantly plated, bite-size portions, served on regular dinnerware. The hors ‘d oeuvre-like pieces allow seniors to dine with their friends and family in the residential dining room or the privacy of their own rooms, enjoying the dignity of eating with their peers and loved ones.
“The program offers everything from breakfast, lunch and dinner to salads and snacks,” said Chef Julio Trejo, Vice President of Dining Services for Inspired Living communities, and a co-creator of the program. “For example, we serve our salads by wrapping them in rice paper to create a spring roll. It might be a Caesar salad or a Chef salad with Thousand Island dressing, but it’s in a portable form so you can grab it, get up and walk around and eat your salad without having to sit in front of a bowl with a fork.”
The Grate Eats! name is a play on foods being “grated” down to smaller portions.
Good Taste Meets Good Nutrition
In addition to making meals for memory-care residents more appetizing, Inspired Living chefs took care to make sure the foods provided the specific nutritional requirements needed by seniors and those with cognitive disorders for optimal health.
“Every item we create is sent to our registered dietitian for input,” said Trejo, who designed the program with Inspired Living Regional Dining Services Director, Chef Stephen Burns. “We based the Grate Eats! program on fresh fruits and vegetables and all-natural foods for better nutrition,” said Trejo. “Our dietitian reviews our items to make sure our menus meet all of the nutritional needs of seniors.”