A new group of health care consumers has begun to utilize the services of long term care. These are the Baby Boomers who total approximately 78 million, born between 1946 and 1964. These men and women, some of whom have reached the 60 year mark, are entering nursing facilities for rehabilitation following joint replacement surgery, cardiac or other surgeries, or therapies following stroke or other medical issues. They expect to be in a nursing facility from a few weeks to a few months—returning home to an active lifestyle.
They are a generation of wealthier and more aware consumers—with the plan to maintain their health, well-being and independence as long as possible in their life. This group of health care consumers is overall knowledgeable of eating healthy as a major part of maintaining good health and quality of life. They expect a food service that provides them with a diet high in anti-oxidants, high in omega 3 fatty acids that increase HDL levels, foods and preparation that contain no trans fats, foods with low glycemic index to help manage diabetes, and overall more control of sodium, fat, and carbohydrates. In addition, these are often the individuals now making decisions on placement for their family members of the previous generation—as we see more 85 to 100 plus year of age individuals now ready to be placed in one of the many choices for a retirement facility, assisted living, supportive living, or nursing facility.
Along with wanting a food service that will help maintain their healthy/active lifestyle and to help manage any chronic disease conditions, this wealthier group of consumers is expecting more upscale dining options including more pleasing areas in which to dine and choosing when they will eat their meals. They expect more choices at the table—similar to what they are accustomed to in their years of restaurant meals—being able to choose from several entrée choices, side dishes, breads and desserts. How the food is served, its plate appeal, and a philosophy of “hospitality” from the staff are all a part of food service expected by this newest generation of consumers in long term care facilities.
The long term care industry is going through a period of evolution. Facility food services are being challenged as never before to provide what the consumer not only wants but expects—for themselves as well as for their loved ones. The meal service is at the top of the list when selecting a health care facility. To remain competitive in the long-term care industry, facility owners and managers are looking far beyond institutional meal service and looking carefully at the baby boomer generation’s expectations.