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DMA Survey: Food Feedback From Seniors

Dining and foodservice offerings ranked seventh on a list of 13 concerns important to consumers in choosing a senior living facility in a recent survey conducted by the Dietary Managers Association.

The survey was completed by 332 consumers, age 55 and older who had researched senior living, either for themselves or a loved one, and also by 237 members of the DMA who are currently employed by senior living facilities.

The most frequently identified characteristics of important concerns were safety, staff, costs, fees, living space and accommodations. The survey found that once basic concerns were met, dining took on more and more importance.

Based on all findings, the recommended action at the end of the survey stated that “the quality of the senior dining experience can affect resident satisfaction with the overall facility. Premium quality foodservice can be used as a differentiation point for upscale senior living facilities.”

For more on this, go to In that vein, many foodservice professionals who were surveyed said the dining experience at their facility enhances the quality of life by providing the residents with:

• A time and place to socialize with each other and the staff

• Something to look forward to

• A home or community-like atmosphere

Consumer-respondents to the survey overwhelmingly said they want their dining experiences to “be like home cooking.” One-third of current residents described their dining experience as “somewhat” or “to a great extent” like home cooking.

The food items residents most associated with comfort food were:

• Macaroni and cheese

• Soup

• Ice cream

• Potatoes

Many respondents cited meat, especially steak, as a top food items associated with luxury dining. The top three food types rated most important by residents to healthy eating were low fat, low sodium and whole grain.

On the negative side, some residents described senior living facilities as “boring places for older people to wait to die with no independence or privacy.” Those who responded negatively to dining services described the food as “bland, bad,” or “similar to cafeteria food.”

Of the challenges faced day to day by foodservice professionals, the most frequently cited were budget issues, the residents’ dining satisfaction, special diet menu planning, healthy menu planning and labor issues.

For more information on the survey, email [email protected], or call (312) 280-4573.

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