Becky Lee Hinton is more than the executive director of Moline’s Overlook Village. She also is the daughter of a resident, having moved her parents Bill and Nancy Lee to the retirement community on the Belgian Bluffs when her mother required assisted living and subsequently end-of-life care. When her mother died last April, Ms. Lee […]
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Becky Lee Hinton is more than the executive director of Moline’s Overlook Village. She also is the daughter of a resident, having moved her parents Bill and Nancy Lee to the retirement community on the Belgian Bluffs when her mother required assisted living and subsequently end-of-life care.When her mother died last April, Ms. Lee Hinton assumed her father would move back home. Instead, he decided to move across campus to the independent living wing for two great reasons: the community of friendships built around the dinner table, and the quality and variety of the food available. “Dad told me he ate better here than he had in years,” Ms. Lee Hinton explained. “He said, ‘It’s hard cooking for just two people.’ You’re not preparing a lot of vegetables, much less a wide variety of foods. Most people are just grabbing quick convenience foods. One thing he said: ‘I get fresh vegetables here all the time.’”Gone are the boring days of a generation ago when green jello and mashed potatoes seemingly dominated nightly menus at retirement homes.
Food as a marketing tool
In a change demanded over the past decade by Baby Boomers aging into senior living centers, improved food selections and more choices are now quality-of-life necessities as well as selling points in the marketing plans of many facilities.For instance, the nearly four-year-old Overlook facility offers restaurant-style table service each day, with residents able to choose the time of their two facility-provided meals — typically breakfast paired with lunch or dinner.Two daily specials are available at each meal. For example, one recently included a chef salad or grilled pastrami sandwich with au gratin potatoes for lunch, and vegetable lasagna or turkey cordon bleu with Swiss mornay dauce for dinner.If neither of the specials appeal to the palate? Overlook also offers an expansive alternate menu that includes go-to options such as hamburgers, chicken breasts, sautéed or fried shrimp, and dozens of different sandwiches.The variety of options are the biggest change Ms. Lee Hinton has seen — and that allows residents to better follow specific diets, such as heart healthy, diabetic, or gluten-free requirements. “Our residents have told us over the years that they want to be able to make choices,” Ms. Lee Hinton said, noting food is a big reason her facility is near capacity. “They don’t want us to tell them what they’re going to eat. So, we just make sure to have enough variety for them to get what they want and need.“We have residents who won’t touch fish or shellfish. But we also have residents who are strict pescatarians, where they will only eat vegetables and fish. So, we want to serve both crowds while also speaking to those with a well-rounded palate.”
SUMMIT: Three restaurants and a rooftop bar
The Summit, a new facility in Bettendorf, is going even one step farther by introducing to the local market a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) that offers three distinct restaurants and a rooftop bar.The facility is reminiscent of an all-inclusive vacation resort with the options ranging from fine to casual dining to simple appetizers with drinks. “Most places offer a dining room in which there is a meal that’s included with the rent,” explained Erica Schroeder-Cerda, sales director for The Summit. “But we are offering residents the opportunity to pick and choose which restaurant they want to have their meals.”The Mix is Summit’s bistro. The casual dining experience includes quick options such as flatbreads, paninis, soups, and sandwiches.Fusion is the facility’s all-comers restaurant, which offers classics fused with interesting fare such as lobster mac & cheese or chicken with goat cheese stuffing. The fine-dining experience 571 is named for the elevation of Bettendorf, and it includes the chef coming to your table to talk about the entrees and wine pairings for a five-course meal.Stratus is the rooftop bar where residents can entertain with drinks and traditional tavern appetizers.“The variety includes everything you’d find on restaurant menus outside of our facility,” Ms. Schroeder-Cerda said, describing a mix of steaks, seafood, pastas, and salads.
Restaurant food prepared at home
The Summit also follows the concept of caregivers preparing meals in the individual households rather than relying on an industrial kitchen to deliver food to nursing home patients.“All of the food is cooked right there so patients can see it and smell it and talk to the cook and have conversations much like you would in your own home,” Ms. Schroeder-Cerda said. “So, it’s much more engaging and leads to better outcomes.“The food shouldn’t be any different in a long-term care setting. They can go to one of the restaurants if they want and are able to. But in most cases, those residents remain in their household — and they can expect the same menu items where they are — and have it hot and fresh and ready — as opposed to the typical frozen vegetables warmed up.”The Summit is the first retirement facility offering this style of dining locally. The concept feeds into the parent company’s “Core 4” principles — which are borrowed from the nine lessons learned from the “Blue Zone,” a book researching the commonalities shared by the places around the planet where people are living the longest.“Eat wisely, move naturally, be connected and have the right outlook,” Ms. Schroeder-Cerda said, revealing her company’s secrets to longevity.Overlook’s parent company, Dial, has a similar outlook.“Instead of three lofty sounding paragraphs, the mission statement says simply, ‘Love the way you live,’” said Ms. Lee Hinton. “So, we do everything in our power to help our residents do that — and a lot of that happens in the dining department.”