Anyone who has ever spent time in an institution – be it a hospital, military training college, boarding school or an aged care facility – knows that meal times can be very regimented.
Meals are served at a set time each day and the options are extremely limited in terms of what you have to eat.
The environment is often fairly sterile, rather than being designed to add to the dining experience.
As part of its philosophy Uniting AgeWell is currently trialling a new way of ensuring residents have a different experience at meal times.
Starting at a number of sites including Strathaven, on the western fringe of Hobart, Uniting AgeWell has increased food choices and extended meal times in a more patron friendly environment.
All the organisation’s hotel services and lifestyle staff have been trained in customer service to assist them to become more aware of ways they can create an environment in which residents enjoy their meal times more.
Integrated services manager Denise Hallam explained that it was all about improving the dining experience for residents.
“We want to see our residents treated more as customers and getting into the feel of a hotel or restaurant rather than a hospital-like environment,” Ms Hallam said.
“We want people to eat when they want to eat rather than when they are told to eat.”
Ensuring that only good quality crockery and table linen are used in the dining room, rather than some plastic items, is part of creating a meal time experience which encourages residents to look forward to dining.
“Of course there are people who need aids (to assist them eat) but this is done in a very discreet and personal way,” hotel services manager Melissa Nicholson said.
The serving area will also have a special ice cream corner and trained barista on hand to offer residents the type of coffee more commonly found in cafes and coffee shops rather than in aged care facilities.
It is not the first time Strathaven has looked at using its environment to create spaces which encourage social connections among residents.
The site also has a cocktail bar, called Casablanca, which operates on Thursday evenings.
At Casablanca residents are encouraged to make their way to the bar and choose what it is they would like to drink, rather than relying on a staff member to assist them.
Mrs Hallam said there was no doubt offering residents the opportunity to socialise worked wonders.
“We have seen numerous instances where residents who were previously very isolated will come along and have a beer. And in one case that beer has turned into a commitment for a weekly card game.”
“Using good quality cutlery and crockery it gives you a bit more pride,” Strathaven resident, Mrs Page said.
Mrs Page said she also liked the range of finger food now on offer, particularly in the evenings.