Our Compliments to the Chef: Dining Services in Senior Living During Coronavirus

Who wouldn’t love a traveling ice cream cart or pop-up taco stand? At Sonata Senior Living, we believe that done right, dining services in a senior living scenario should be a daily source of delight. Every dish should be fresh, delicious, nutritious, and interesting. Meals should feel like a treat—not a chore—and part and parcel of a maintenance-free lifestyle.

To give you a better idea of what you and your loved one should expect from dining services in senior living communities before, during and after coronavirus, we picked the brain of Sonata Dining Services Director and Head Chef, Manny Navarro.

Q: What should the overall dining experience feel like for seniors?

A: It should feel like they’re going to their favorite restaurant—without the hassles of reservations, parking, or parsing the bill. At Sonata Senior Living, we offer restaurant-style dining in a light, bright atmosphere that promotes relaxation and social connection. We encourage our guests to linger and delight them every day with creative menu options.

Q: How often should the menu change?

A: Even your favorite restaurant gets old if the menu never changes. We change our menu every four weeks and tailor it to the seasons, incorporating fresh fall, winter, spring, and summer fruits and vegetables. At the same time, we don’t want our guests to go without their go-to favorites. We have an Always Available Menu of the most popular items for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and update it with new selections to try every three months.

Q: Should seniors get a say?

A: Absolutely. I encourage our residents to participate in meal planning. Just because they’re no longer cooking for themselves as regularly doesn’t mean they’ve lost their appetite for familiar flavors.

I want our menus to work for our residents, so it’s important for me to work with them to incorporate their preferences. I also keep our menus broad enough to allow for personal choice, which is part of Sonata’s organizational mission. For example, residents vote on a favorite cookie which we share on social media so residents and families can enjoy making them at home.

Q: How are birthdays and holidays handled?

A: Naturally, our guests may miss baking their own cakes or cooking holiday meals for their families, and we recreate the nostalgia for residents. We bake a monthly birthday cake and plan special resort-style feasts for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter.

Q: What about snacks?

A: Morning and evening snacks are available in the Sonata dining room, and we mix things up with travelling ice cream carts, taco stands, guacamole stations, brunches, and cooking demonstrations. Fun ideas from our guests are always welcome. Follow us @SonataWest to see what we’re serving this week or to suggest your ideas.

Q: Are senior health considerations built in?

A: Yes—health considerations are essential. At Sonata, a registered dietician signs off on every menu for nutritional value. We always include options for those with special dietary needs:

  • Low-calorie
  • Low-fat
  • Sugar-free
  • No salt added
  • Soft and pureed foods
  • Finger foods

Sonata Senior Living accommodates residents’ individual dietary restrictions. We also stay aware of individual allergies and provide substitutions.

In response to coronavirus, Sonata introduced strict guidelines designed to remove the risk of infection, yet allow us to continue to provide seamless, unabbreviated service to residents.

Q: How did coronavirus impact dining services?

A: Sonata Senior Living follows enhanced safety guidelines and social distancing best practices. We have implemented the recommendations and orders issued by the State of Florida Division of Emergency Management while making sure the highest levels of service and quality in dining services continue uninterrupted during the pandemic.

While social distancing has temporarily modified our dining room experience to maintain the safety of our residents, we continue to offer residents an array of delicious starters, sides, entrees, beverages and desserts for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We personally deliver meals to apartments if and when it is needed and make snacks available throughout the day.

At Sonata Senior Living, Head Chef Manny Navarro helps us make sure that senior dining services is central to a happy, healthy lifestyle that preserves personal choice.

To learn more about dining services at Sonata Senior Living, contact us today → or schedule a visit →

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