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Hamilton Beach Commercial Blog


Total Transformation: Senior Living Dining Trends in 2024 and Beyond

9:15 AM on October 11, 2023

“We’ve created a somewhat unrealistic dining culture in senior dining,” Jonathan Pinsker, Regional Director of Culinary andsenior-living-image Nutritional Services for Acts Retirement-Life Communities, told the Senior Dining Association. “We found at one community that 70% of residents were eating a 4-course meal — soup, salad, main course, and dessert — every night, which isn’t what you normally do at home.”  

Today's 55+ community residents crave more modern dining options. Here’s a look at the trends we’re seeing. 

Turning senior living lobbies into lively cafés 

One of the biggest hospitality trends of the past decade has the transformation of lobbies from “a place to go to rather than a place to go through” (in the words of Hilton’s Alexandra Jaritz.) Hotels discovered that they could create new energy — and new revenue — by remodeling a static space into a place for guests to eat, drink, and interact. 

Some senior living communities are following suit. In Anthology of King of Prussia, you walk into a bistro and coffee bar that looks more like a modern hotel lobby than any staid reception area. This is part of a trend noted by Brad Perkins FAIA, co-founder and chairman of architecture firm Perkins Eastman: “Most communities are becoming more and more informal. Long gone is the formal dining room. Now, casual dining options—cafés, breakfast bars, etc.—are expected.”  

Updating menus and meal schedules to please diverse palates   

In many ways, senior-living residents are similar to young, college-aged diners: They’re health-conscious, adventurous eaters who care about sourcing and sustainability. Senior dining menu trends we’re seeing include: 

  • Sophisticated plant-based options. Vermont life plan community Wake Robin has served dishes such as “‘faux-sobuco,’ a meat-free version of ossobuco with seitan, tofu and a mushroom demi-glace prepared in the style of a cross-cut veal shank.”  
  • All-day dining. Almost no one wants to eat dinner at 4 p.m.! Flexible meal schedules and always-available snacks allow residents to eat on their schedule.    
  • Grab-and-go meals such as rice bowls, salads and smoothies. (Get culinary secrets for making the perfect smoothie.) 
  • Pop-up meal concepts. At Acts, Pinsker introduced a series of casual-dining theme nights, such as “Shaky’s Burgers” served in a cardboard cut-out of a ’57 Chevy and a “Viva la Crepe” all-crepe menu. Make it fun, not fancy, he advises. 

Adding bars to senior living communities 

Over the past 20 years, the percentage of older U.S. adults (55+) who drink alcohol has risen from 49% to 59%. It makes sense, then, that many senior living communities are adding an on-site bar or pub where residents can socialize, drink and dine.  

Thinking about adding a bar to your senior living community? Here are some elements to think about: 

  • Vibe: No one wants to have a beer in a bland, generic space. The bar should have an overall aesthetic that gives it a distinct sense of place, whether that’s “sports bar,” “Italian trattoria,” or “Cheers.” 
  • Accessibility: Seating should be sturdy, cushioned and comfortable. While the typical bar height is 42 inches (107 cm), lowering it to 36 inches (91 cm) allows for accessible, hip-height stools, suggests interior designer Deb Kimmet. “In some cases, we have dropped the bar height to 30 inches so that residents can sit comfortably and easily on table height chairs or stools—with backs,” Kimmet says. The bar serving area can be sunken into the floor, “so the bartender is at eye level with the patrons instead of towering over them.” 
  • Lighting: Ensure the light is soft and warm, but not so dim that it impedes patrons from reading a menu or getting around.  
  • Simplified service: Most foodservice staff members aren’t bottle-flipping bartenders. With the Bartesian Professional Cocktail Machine, they don’t have to be! This advanced cocktail maker uses natural flavor capsules, spirits and water to mix premium cocktails in 30 seconds. Just select the desired drink strength, insert a cocktail capsule, and Bartesian Professional does the rest. It even makes mocktails for patrons who don’t drink but enjoy the atmosphere of the bar. 

Adopting a “small house” model for senior living and dining.  

The small-house or Green House approach is built on a simple principle: that older people should be able to live in “radically non-institutional eldercare environments that empower the lives of people who live and work in them.” In small-house senior communities, each area or building houses around 12 residents who have private bedrooms and bathrooms, with communal dining, kitchen and living-room areas. Studies have shown improved health outcomes among Green House residents, not to mention emotional benefits from increased autonomy.  

Meals are made right there in the kitchen to meet residents’ tastes, dietary needs and schedule preferences. Want a turkey sandwich for breakfast, or some hot cocoa before bed? No problem. For a home-like senior dining setup like this one, Hamilton Beach Commercial’s kitchen appliances for extended-stay are super-durable, easy to use, and easy to clean.  


Ready to reimagine your dining program? Explore our full line of innovative foodservice solutions for healthcare and senior living.  

Topics: food trends, Bartesian, senior living

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