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Food Trends Inspire Out-of-the-Box Dining Experience in Senior Living Communities

senior livingDallas, TX – Food and the act of eating have transitioned from a bare necessity to a form of entertainment in recent years. Unlike the greatest generation or even some from the silent generation, today’s seniors have now developed an appetite for daring, out-of-the-box experiences that showcase the ability to color outside the lines and go against the norm. People are leading more dynamic lives focused on entertainment, and senior living communities are catering to a vibrant lifestyle through the design, amenities, décor and dining experiences. Dallas-based senior living and hospitality architecture firm three: living architecture is well-versed on trends in the industry, and has noticed a significant shift in the way communities approach dining. Rather than the cafeteria-style restaurants, three is incorporating restaurant-style venues, bistros, display cooking kitchens and environments that give chefs options to provide tremendous variety. Today’s seniors look at food as an experience, and they want unique presentations, unusual combinations in an atmosphere that provides entertainment.

“Recent food trends have “foodies” craving a new dining experience – one where they are willing to try unique food pairings with delightful presentations and then share pictures and reviews on social media of their dining experience,” said Carl Ede, AIA, LEED AP principal and architect for three: living architecture. “Senior living communities are no exception to this shift in how we think of food. To cater to this entertainment trend, communities are incorporating display kitchens and chef’s tables where chefs can demonstrate meal preparation and interact with residents. Dining rooms are moving from cafeteria-style areas with a sea of tables to authentic restaurant-style dining with a choice of seating. The table locations vary, much like a restaurant, with some near a breathtaking window view, others tucked away in intimate corners, as well as in the center of the experience so seniors can mingle with friends. People want options; they want to try new things. Many communities are even bringing in locally renowned chefs to provide the elevated dining experience that near-to-retirement generations desire.”

For example, Harbor’s Edge, an upscale retirement community on the harbor in Norfolk, Va. hired Executive Chef Willie Moats, who has led the culinary team at some of the most successful restaurants in the Hampton Roads area and boasts 32 years of experience and national recognition. Some residents agree he was a real draw when choosing the community. Harbor’s Edge is undergoing an expansion and will be adding a new 27-story high-rise tower with 130 new independent living residences. In conjunction with this development, they are adding a regional cuisine restaurant to their dinner options and a European bistro-style lounge for lunchtime dining which Chef Willie will oversee, providing three to five course dinners in an environment that is both fun and experimental.

“Being a part of the design process for the expansion has given our dining services team the opportunity to identify the resident’s desires and the community’s needs, ensuring that we can accommodate all day-to-day requests, including catering for special events,” said Chef Willie. “After the expansion is complete, we will operate dining services out of an expanded kitchen with four cook-lines, one for each dining room. It is extremely beneficial for the dining services team to be a part of the design process in the early stages so that the team can provide insight on storage space, the flow of the dinner service and the creation of ambiance desired by today’s senior resident.”

“Today’s seniors want variety, while the Greatest Generation, after growing up in the depression, are just grateful to have three hearty, home-style meals a day,” said Ede. “Now seniors’ tastes have become diverse and adventuresome. The new regional cuisine at Harbor’s Edge is seeking to fulfill these desires. Many of these menus have rotating dishes to keep residents on their toes. In regards to the design of these new dining areas, we are doing more than providing a variety of choices in

seating. We are introducing new lighting that makes the ambiance welcoming and warm, showcasing the food in the best light possible. With the dim ambiance lighting, we are suggesting senior living communities provide LED backlit menus so seniors with impaired vision can read their choices with ease. We’re also using new carpet tiles that mimic broad bloom carpets that are attractive, but will hold up to stain removal, easily replaced when necessary and at the same time help absorb ambient noise.”

Different ceiling heights and room dividers can help organize space and create a varied ambiance throughout the restaurant. Artwork, incorporating accent lighting on the wall, unique or abstract pendant fixtures and different textures also help shape the spaces. While the spaces are taking a more à-la-mode turn, they are also welcoming casually dressed diners. Previously, seniors needed to follow a certain dress code to eat at certain establishments within their community, but now it’s simply about having a great time and feeling comfortable. In addition, three is recommending that communities position these eye-catching casual dining experiences near the front of the community to add vibrancy and energy at the “front door,” drawing in visitors and showcasing the experience.

“Other areas have been designed to serve a variety of purposes and are centered on sociable eating,” said Ede. “For example, the European-style bistro and resident lounge at Harbor’s Edge will be located near the entrance of the community and will serve coffee, tea, pastries and other breakfast items in the morning; then salads, soups, sandwiches, paninis and wood-fired pizzas throughout lunchtime and the afternoon. Eventually it turns into a pre-dinner hangout offering patrons wine and beer in lounge-style seating. It’s an area that is full of activity all day long. In regards to other food trends, some communities boast farm-to-table produce and products, others have community gardens and utilize items grown in them for meals, and others have areas where residents brew their own beer. There’s really no limit to where the dining services team can take the community’s residents. It’s an exciting and experimental time for us as well, and I expect new trends to develop which will continue impacting the design of our communities.”

Dallas-based three: living architecture is a global leader in senior living design and hospitality design services and prides itself on designing unique properties of lasting significance. With more than thirty years of experience in the four and five star hospitality/senior living industry, three is regularly recognized by top industry awards for “best in class” designs, worldwide. three: living architecture has specialized in Senior Living for over twenty-one years and has overseen over two billion dollars of senior living communities project costs in twenty-eight built communities.

Recent accolades include those from Travel + Leisure, a leading voice in the global hospitality industry, which named properties designed by three as best in their categories. The Peninsula Beverly Hills was listed as the number one Large City Hotel in the U.S., and Rosewood Mayakoba in Riviera Maya, Mexico, was selected as number one in the category: Best Resort in Mexico. Other three properties have made the Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards many times. For more information about three: living architecture visit