Senior Living Industry Sees Dining Services Leading Growth
The dining services component of the senior housing industry hasn’t always been a primary focus of senior living. In the past, it certainly was an important factor in residents’ care and comfort, but now this service segment has begun to be one of the star attractions. From flexible dining schedules, the option of specialty diets, to the employment of gourmet chefs, the food is drawing in residents and leading to occupancy growth.
Recognizing that seniors, especially those in assisted living communities, enjoy amenities that allow them to experience continued independence, senior living organizations have embraced a type of “open kitchen” policy in their dining functions, enabling residents to enjoy meals practically around the clock. This shift is part of an overall empowerment approach that treats older adults more as enlightened consumers. Many dining facilities in senior living communities are hardly distinguishable from a fine dining restaurant. The added touches of sophistication are in line with more attention to detail and décor than ever before in senior housing.
In addition to tracking overall satisfaction results by conducting surveys of residents after major changes in facilities and operation, senior housing executives are discovering that dining is now responsible for much higher occupancy rates. Compared to other aspects of senior care, such as facility management style, healthcare services, dining has a very high impact on residents’ satisfaction. In some cases, adopting some dining changes affected outcomes by as much as 90%. These numbers are critical to an industry that has been hit by occupancy levels dropping in this challenging economy.
Such favorable responses have shifted senior housing industry marketing departments to put more energy and focus on promoting their dining services to prospective residents and referral sources. One segment of marketing dining programs that has been very effective is focusing on the fresh food movement, such as local food sourcing of produce and incorporating seasonal items in senior housing marketing materials.
A creative way that senior housing communities are drawing in potential residents is to feature “open house,” on-site events that provide an opportunity to view and sample a facility’s dining options and food selections.
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