Food is a very important part of our day, so it’s no surprise that it’s a very important decision making factor for many when moving to a retirement home. 

One of the biggest changes most people find when moving to a retirement home, is having to have three meals a day served to you. For some this is a much welcomed break from cooking and for others it might feel like a loss of independence. No matter your feelings about the change in lifestyle, it’s important to understand how dining at retirement homes work. 

1. Types of Dining: You’ll typically see a few different types of dining at retirement homes. The most common is a semi-formal dining room where residents will go for three meals a day with full service dining. Several retirement homes will also have a separate dining room on their assisted living and memory care floors. Depending on the branding of the retirement home the level of formality in the dining room will vary. Often there is a private dining room which can be booked out if you wish to have a meal with friends or family. These private rooms are very popular to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries or other special occasions. Some homes offer the option to order in food (like your favourite Chinese for instance), as well as choosing from their Table d’Hote or A la Carte menus.

 2. Typical Menu Items: Retirement homes are required to provide nutritious and balanced meals but are not required to follow any specific diet such as Canada’s Food Guide. This leaves it up to the Food Service Manager/Chef to determine the menu. Most menus are created to cater to the needs of the residents in terms of likes and dislikes rather than specific medical conditions etc. Within corporately owned homes you’ll typically see a set menu established by head office and sent to all their properties, whereas at locally owned homes the menu is usually created at site level. 

 3. Meal times: One of the biggest changes for new residents to get used to, is the set meal times. Typically at retirement homes they’ll have set times for meals that residents have to attend. This can be stressful for those that are late risers or typically skip meals. For most, as they settle into their routine, they look forward to meal times and find it easy to fit them into their day. For others there is usually flexibility with meal times. It is important to speak with the Food Service Manager if you have concerns about making meal times, or if you’d like to drop a breakfast or lunch from your day. It is a legal requirement however, in a licensed retirement home,  that one meal a day is taken.

 4. Seating Plan: Open or closed seating? This is what you’ll hear while touring retirement homes. What it simply means is that residents either have assigned seats or can pick their own seats. At first it might seem like choosing your own seat is the best option, however in reality most residents appreciate the assigned seating for a variety of reasons. The biggest reason being that the anxiety of having to pick who you sit with and where you are to sit is alleviated (think new kid in the cafeteria). If you make other friends and would all like to sit together instead of with your regular table mates, you can always ask the dining manager to reassign your seating.

5. Typical Staffing: Within the dining services there are usually a handful of staff working both front and back of the house to ensure smooth service in preparation and delivery of food. A Food Service Manager usually oversees the department and is often also the Head Chef. They will have cooks helping them in the kitchen and sometimes a dishwasher. Front of house there are usually servers who are there to ensure orders are taken and delivered correctly.

6. Modified Diets: Modified diets can be accommodated in most retirement homes but you don’t typically see the same level of modification as you would in Long Term Care. Allergies and sensitivities are accommodated but less frequently you would see modified textures or softened diets. They are available, so if this is something you need, always be sure to ask on your tour, or speak to us at Solva about who offers what options and where.

7. Tray Service: For those feeling overwhelmed or not comfortable with the idea of dining in a large dining room, tray service is available. Staff will bring your meals to your room so you can dine privately. It is important to note there is usually a $5-$10 charge per meal for this so it can add up quickly. If you’re not well, the director of care has discretion to sign you up for tray service for usually three-four days. In this case, there is no charge for tray service.

8. Providing Feedback: Having a say in what type of food is being served is very important for many people. Most homes will have a food committee that meets monthly to provide feedback to the chef about what items are on the menu, the service and how food is prepared/tastes. 

Looking for strategies to find a retirement home that has food you will like? Give us a call at 613-421-6073!