No matter your age, everyone enjoys good food. That’s why when choosing a senior living community, it’s important to look at all your options.
When speaking with three different facilities — one in Lawrence and two in Topeka — restaurant-style dining was the norm. Residence administrators recognize the need for high-quality dining and do their best to accommodate those needs, offering white-linen table cloths, private dining rooms for families and, at some facilities, nine different options per meal.
“It’s really about an experience,” said Chris Mahen, chief operating officer at Legend Senior Living. “So we create a friendly, courteous, interactive upscale restaurant experience for residents, and that includes the atmosphere, to how the table is set, to flowers being on the tables, to background music, to wait staff, to providing multiple courses and selections.”
The Windsor of Lawrence, a Legend Senior Living residence at 3220 Peterson Road in Lawrence, offers the Gold Leaf Dining experience. The amenity includes three courses for each meal: a soup or salad; main course, which has two entree options to choose from each day, then six to seven always-available items; and a dessert.
A priority for senior living communities is offering nutritious meals. Over the years, they’ve expanded menu offerings to accommodate growing dietary specifications.
“We do two different diets. We do no-added-salt and no-concentrated-sweets for the diabetics,” said Brett Eakes, director of culinary services at Atria Hearthstone, 3415 S.W. 6th Ave. “We have a registered dietitian to help with our menus, as well as our house dietitian in Louisville (Ky.)that maintains our menus. We can pretty much write our own unique menu, but we’re in the Midwest — people prefer meat and potatoes here.”
Regulations for senior living centers dictate the nutritional value of meals served. While variety is still important, Matt Mitzel, general manager of Aldersgate Village, 7220 S.W. Asbury Drive, explained the quality of ingredients is a top consideration.
Serving multigrain bars, cage-free eggs and fresh fruit alongside classic unhealthy options like peach pie, candy bars and soft-serve ice cream means finding a healthy dietary balance can sometimes be difficult, staff say.
“We have to take a happy and healthy approach,” Mitzel said. “Offering healthy options and working with dietitians on their goals — whether it’s weight loss or weight gain — everybody has the right to good and bad choices. They may be old, but they still have that right as an individual.”
Will Peterson, senior executive director at Atria Hearthstone, offered similar advice, saying that while he and his care staff are not doctors, they do try to encourage healthy eating options among the residents.
“We do offer smaller slices of pie in addition to the sugar-free, because sometimes they just don’t want that. But on the other side, we have some people who can have as much as they want whenever they want, so it’s a hard balance to stay healthy,” Peterson said. “It’s a challenge. It really is. And food is very important, sometimes it’s most important, and is always an early topic when discussing residency.”
The kitchens at Atria and The Windsor operate on a rotating menu: different options each day for about four to six weeks, with different seasonal menus. Eakes said Atria switched to its fall menu on Oct. 1.
“Food is a big part of their day. They thrive on it, and you’re only as good as your last meal,” Eakes said. “So we want to make sure the meals are good.”
Contact reporter Savanna Maue at (785) 295-5621 or @CJFoodFun or @SavannaMaue on Twitter.