Are America’s Nursing Homes Getting a Culinary Makeover?

Haute cuisine chefs are offering their skills to America’s aging population in retirement homes across the country

Photo Sasabune Omakase Modified: Flickr/erin/CC 4.0

High culinary standards at upscale retirement communities around the country may signal a culinary revolution for America's aging population.

Mather, an upscale senior community center in Evanston, Ill. is setting an interesting example how Americans may come to treat its aging population — with upscale cuisine from graduates of prestigious culinary schools, reports The New York Times.

Though Mather, with its “$1 million condominiums near Lake Michigan” is far from the norm of America’s retirees, the community’s conscious efforts to bring beautiful and mindfully prepared food — including vegetables “from a cooperative farm in upstate Wisconsin — might have interesting implications for the future of caring for the elderly.

Not far from Mather, another retirement center called Mercy Circle is home to aging nuns with access to free-range chicken and “fruit-enhanced spa water.”

In Manhattan, at Lenox Hill Neighborhood House, “sustainable seafood comes directly from the boat.”

The issue here, however, is whether this standard of care and expertise can ever become the norm for all nursing homes and retirement communities across the country, not just for the well-off.

 “To me the question is, ‘Are they only doing this at their higher-end places, or are they doing this across the board?’ ” Kathy Ozer, director of the National Family Farm Coalition, told The New York Times. “How accessible is this to people with less money to spend?”

Although these changes are difficult to measure and indeed, feel a long way in coming, advocates say that improving the quality of food service at senior centers offers important therapeutic benefits that deserve attention.

“It’s a dignity issue,” said Richard Schenkel, founder of the Unidine Corporation, which works to bring “a greater culinary perspective” to food in retirement communities. “They have realized they cannot continue to just provide a tray or a can of supplement or a scoop of soft food in a monkey dish in a skilled nursing home anymore. Those days are over.”

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Karen Lo is an associate editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @appleplexy