Malnutrition and undernourishment are common among seniors, especially those that live alone. This is due to physiological changes that elders go through, that decrease their appetite. As a result, they end up eating only a limited variety of food, which causes the levels of essential vitamins and minerals in the body to dip. 

But will providing seniors with daily balanced meals made from quality ingredients help tackle senior malnutrition? According to The Good Kitchen initiative in Denmark, senior nutrition has more to do with how an elder perceives they are being treated, than what they consume. The project also showed that the taste of food had little to do with how happy elders were with their meal service. What seniors truly wanted was flexibility and the power to choose. 

Today, The Good Kitchen has become a shining example of the power of holistic eldercare, and how perception can positively impact an elder’s life.  In this article, we take a look at what happened, and how we can apply the same to our efforts.

The Good Kitchen

Initiated in 2007, the Good Kitchen was a meal service for seniors in the Holstebro Municipality, Denmark. The Danish innovation and design agency Hatch & Bloom was the creator of the idea and was responsible for charting the roadmap for its success. Its goal was to solve the issue of malnutrition  in 125,000 seniors who availed of state-sponsored meal services. 

Denmark has a higher than average population of seniors—almost 19% of the 5.7 million Danish citizens are more than 65 years of age. Even after receiving regularly portioned meals, 60% of those seniors that relied on the state had poor nutrition, resulting in low quality of life.

Hatch & Bloom was tasked with surveying multiple stakeholders/end users in the supply chain and creating a menu that would cater to the specific needs of seniors.

But as the surveyors began to interact with everyone, it was evident that the menu was not the primary concern. The service delivery model, the mentality of the kitchen staff, and the outlook of seniors towards availing the delivery service needed to be addressed.

Challenges faced by the seniors

Surveyors found that seniors who opted for sponsored meals were often victimized by the social stigma associated with getting help for food. Seniors were also unhappy about the lack of control in choosing what they had for their meals. It was the most important thing for them, second only to personal hygiene. Coupled with the natural loss of appetite, this feeling of discontent led to many unpleasant feelings and psychological stressors.

Discontent among kitchen workers

Reports showed that those preparing the food were not happy with their job. But pay or infrastructure was not the reason for their discontent, it was the fact that they were not empowered to do what they loved – creating new dishes. Being forced to prepare the same menu over and over again was eroding their morale and motivation.

Most thought that those who worked in these kitchens were not good cooks and did not follow proper hygiene. This outlook also created a sense of insecurity.

Turning the Narrative Around

The employees were made to feel like they were working in a professional kitchen. A chef was brought in to help them shift their focus from economy to value and presentation. 

The language of the menu was also redesigned. From just listing out the ingredients, the items were made to sound more appealing with the details of the cooking methods used. Initially, what used to be ‘potato gravy and vegetables’ was changed to ‘potatoes tossed with thyme, and butter roasted vegetables.’ This resulted in an 8 fold increase in the number of elders choosing this item. Cooking for a restaurant-style menu also gave the workers a sense of professionalism. The kitchen staff was also given new uniforms in place of the previous ones (they resembled nightgowns).

The packaging was also customized to individual needs and preferences. The menu emphasized traditional preparation techniques that mimicked how the elders would cook at home. If they preferred to prepare their own potatoes or veggies, the meal packet also included fresh vegetables that were ready to cook. This gave seniors the power to choose what they ate every day.

A comment card in their meal package also allowed them to share their preferences with the delivery personnel. This served two purposes: 1. The kitchen staff knew what the elders thought of their food, and 2. It made sure seniors got the type of food they enjoyed. A shift in mentality was brought in for everyone involved, by making them more empowered to make their own choices.

Implementing the Concept at Home

Alserv’s meal delivery services share a similar philosophy to The Good Kitchen project. It is all about the experience for us as well. From preparation to delivery, we make sure that seniors get the best meal service without any hassle. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are personalized and contain the exact amount of spices and add-ons the seniors enjoy.

Our cooks are also passionate about the job they do, and hence, every meal they prepare tastes like those made at home. They also make it a point to use the best ingredients for everything they prepare. 

To know more about our services, speak with one of our Relationship Managers today. Visit, www.alserv.in/contact-us/