Dementia-friendly dining

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Pamela Tabar – Long-Term Living

Senior living dining has been through many design phases lately—including the bistro, the casual café, the fine dining setting and even the wine bar. Now, senior residences are fine-tuning the dining experience of a growing population—those with cognitive decline.

While the latest dining settings have tended to target the appetites of younger and more mobile residents, dining options for those living in memory care settings have not been as robust. Some say it’s because certain food forms are simply easier when serving those with dementia, but others say it’s just because the industry hasn’t thought beyond the status quo.

“Too often, the rest of the senior community gets a traditional, wholesome meal, while the memory care residents get fish sticks,” says Chef Sarah Gorham, co-founder of Atlanta-based Grind Dining. “Why should that be? Just because someone has trouble chewing or using utensils doesn’t mean they don’t deserve a healthy, flavorful meal.”

Grind Dining’s baliwick is rethinking the shape and presentation of foods to make them easier to hold, bite or chew, while preserving the fresh flavors and textures of the ingredients. Gooey cheeseburgers become stuffed miniburgers on lollipop sticks. Wraps, tarts, crepes and tortillas all become containers for breakfast frittata, pork fried rice or sautéed vegetables. They’ve even figured out how to bake spaghetti in wedges.

“It’s the same food you’re feeding the rest of the community,” adds co-founder Chef Stone Morris. “It’s the same menu, just in a different shape. It retains the textures that are such important memory triggers and creates a sense of inclusion.”

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