Catering and nursing homes: what models for the future?

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Catering for nursing homes raises several questions, notably regarding: future trends, how it will support the in-depth changes arising from the new expectations of residents, and the role it will play in making these places of life attractive and resolutely focused on the well-being of, and respect for the elderly.

In line with the preparation of the French Grand âge et autonomie law on old age and autonomy, EHPA Conseil and Elior have joined forces in a forward-looking approach to reflect on the evolution of the nursing home catering model and use their findings to develop the food offer. In order to jointly imagine the future catering model in nursing homes, the two players have co-produced a white paper entitled "Nursing home and catering: What models for tomorrow? ".

The development of nursing homes over last 50 years in France

Over the past 50 years, French nursing homes have been transformed, structured, professionalized and adapted to meet the needs of their elderly residents. Today, France has 7,400 establishments that accommodate more than 600,000 elderly people and play a central role in the management of loss of autonomy.

Catering has supported the construction of the nursing home by playing a central role in the well-being of residents and the social life of the establishments. The aim is to respect the dignity of the elderly by making every effort to offer meals that are appetizing and appealing to the eye, in a pleasant and homely environment. Along with medical progress, food-related issues have also gained in expertise, as illustrated by the modified texture technique, which makes it possible to adapt food offers to the various pathologies of elderly persons.

Caterers supporting the transformation of nursing homes

Nursing homes specialized in dependency issues no longer have to be prove their legitimacy, but rather their ability to meet the challenges of tomorrow, notably regarding the expectations of future generations of seniors. The nursing home of the future is under construction, and catering is playing a central role in these changes.

We have identified several trends in nursing homes and the solutions catering players must provide, namely:

  • The lowering of the age of admission into a nursing home and a higher level of dependency: the role of catering is to prevent malnutrition by prioritizing rich foods, diversifying the offer and adapting diets according to pathologies so that mealtime is a moment of pleasure.
  • The emergence of a new type of population; namely elderly people with disabilities and some with psychiatric disorders.  The caterer helps these people to age well by playing a role in the prevention of malnutrition and obesity.
  • The opening of urban nursing homes to attract local elderly persons, accommodate several generations, or fetch the elderly from their homes and accompany them: for caterers this means imagining services that involve several generations (restaurants that are open to the city, cooking workshops, etc.) and stepping up home delivery.
  • The need to enhance the value of work carried out in nursing homes: in the kitchen, this involves ambitious training programs, and how we esteem the profession of the chef who takes care of the elderly.   

Adapt catering to the expectations of baby boomers by 2030

The nursing home of 2020 is therefore preparing for what it will become in 2030: a model that is more open, with greater focus on prevention, and more connected, etc. In addition, catering fully plays its role by contributing to the attractiveness of these establishments and will become a real criterion of choice for those deciding whether to enter a given establishment or not.

The ambitious challenge for the nursing home and the catering industry of the future, therefore, will be to adapt to future baby boomer residents clamoring for a place and whose eating habits are different from those of the residents today.

Caterers must already anticipate the demands of future generations, notably in terms of:

  • Healthier and more responsible food: baby boomers are more demanding with respect to product origin, be it organic or locally grown. For example, nursing homes will have to step up short-circuit sourcing for their residents. The fight against food waste is also a major issue which notably involves improving the quality of meals, because the tastier the meal, the less food wasted. These expectations are in line with the two objectives of the Egalim law for January 2022: to introduce into public contract catering 50% of products bearing a quality label, of which 20% derived from organic farming in terms of purchase value excluding VAT (currently 15% and 3%, respectively), and to step up the fight against food waste, with the possible extension to contract catering and the food industry so as to make food donations.
  • A more diversified diet: expected increase in the number of residents who are vegetarian, or consume little meat, and are even vegan. Residents will also want more in the way of choice, in terms of savor and service. Future residents will need to be able to place their order from anywhere of their choice and at any time thanks to the digital applications that our future seniors will be using more and more (home delivery, take-out). This catering individualization project is fully in line with the expectations of future generations of residents who are attached to their freedom of choice; one they will not be willing to give up upon entering a nursing home.
  • Modular spaces and greater schedule flexibility: creating private areas or offering more room service will be essential to preserve the privacy of new generations. Service individualization also involves extended hours in order to respect every one’s personal rhythm and appetite. In the future, residents will be able to impose their own individual routine, which differs from that of their fellow inmates. Respect for residents’ individual rhythms will be all the more important as this is a factor that conditions their appetites. Caterers will be required to organize meals in a different way, by introducing wider time slots, proposing buffets or creating on-site "dining areas". The structure of meals will also be modified and serving three meals a day with the traditional starter, main course, cheese and / or dessert will no longer be the norm.

Catering has played a central role in the construction of the nursing home in the past and continues to do so, today. While it will be just as important in the transformations of the future, it will have to be reinvented.


nursing home catering

Human beings are food driven and each day catering services across the nation strive to achieve the perfect meal elderly residents are satisfied with the quality and have enjoyed the dining experience.
nursing home catering
2 March 2023

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