Embracing Purpose: How Older Adults are Thriving and Living with Intention

Happiness, at any age, hinges on purpose. For older adults, it’s a key driver to explore their interests, community, and the world around them.
Embracing Purpose 01

As the senior living industry rapidly continues to evolve and redefine itself, so too have the benchmarks for hospitality. As people live longer and healthier lives, there’s been a transformation in what older adult living communities look like, what residents are looking for and how radically different they are from 10 years ago.

Today’s older adult is seeking a community where they can age with grace, feel a strong sense of connection, and continue their journey of discovery through enriching experiences – which includes a more elevated level of food and dining experiences.

Kitchens and dining rooms in homes across the country have always been the heartbeat of the family – and the same is true for older adult living communities. Food and dining are so much more than serving meals three times a day. Fresh, healthy food is not just critical to one’s physiological well-being, but as research has shown, it also contributes vastly to an individual’s social, cultural, and psychological quality of life.1

Does Food Help Build Connection in Senior Living Communities?

Today’s dining programs must be designed to provide more than fuel and nutrition for physical well-being but must also provide opportunities for social engagement and connection.

More than the heartbeat of a community, food and dining are the key to ensuring the entire “body” of an older adult living community functions in a meaningful intentional way.

Positive social interactions are associated with contributing to a sense of purpose for older adults. These interactions can, and should, vary from day to day and enhance a resident’s overall well-being.

Since humans are innately social creatures, it is especially important that, as we write the “third act” of our lives, we have the opportunity to share our life experiences and wisdom with others. This can provide a deep sense of purpose and satisfaction, paving the way for older adults to stay motivated. How meaningful it can be to watch our elders continue to grow and discover a renewed sense of purpose.2

Purpose May Lead to Better Health Outcomes

Having a sense of purpose can act as a shield against stress and its negative impacts, such as increased vulnerability to heart disease as well as negative psychological outcomes including depression, isolation and loneliness. This could be why individuals who possess a strong sense of purpose tend to lead longer lives.3

In addition to the day-to-day community connection helping older adults continue to live with a sense of purpose, having family visits to hold onto, or create new cherished traditions, is yet another way to keep that intergenerational element, which is so important for the entire family bond.

Children and grandchildren gathering together in a communal teaching kitchen is a wonderful way for everyone to try new recipes with our dedicated and talented chefs helping guide the process.

Our chefs are focused on working directly with local farms and vendors – it’s a priority for every community and an exceptionally important goal in our kitchens throughout our organization.

For chefs and families to have informative conversations about the importance of sustainability and reducing food waste, goes a long way for grandchildren and parents alike to help everyone feel a shared sense of purpose toward this critical goal.  

There are a multitude of other ways older adults can find a sense of purpose in their third act:

  1. Staying connected to family. Intergenerational relationships are critical!
  2. Volunteering for causes.
  3. Pursuing new interests and skills.
  4. Learning new ways for self-expression – art, writing and other creative outlets.
  5. Considering their personal legacy and the impact they want to leave.

Our executive chefs launched the In the Kitchen program in Southern California last month, where our first resident participant was a retired CEO who had always wanted to learn how to make pasta from scratch. He invited his grandchildren to join him for an afternoon of cooking together.  It made for a truly wonderful experience that resonates for years to come!

The most important thing to remember is that purpose doesn’t have to be a single path—it can be a combination of these approaches. Finding meaning in life is a journey, and it’s never too late to discover or redefine your personal direction and impact on the world.

A strong sense of purpose later in life will look different considering the incredible diversity in our society and people in general. Some may want to contribute more or in different ways to their community, work in areas of social justice or environmental protection, it may be to continue along in their successful career, and for others, it may be to spend time with and take care of their families.4

How Can Food and Dining Drive Resident Satisfaction?

There’s no question feeling an authentic camaraderie with other residents and staff members improves resident satisfaction.5 But the food and dining offerings, whether it be a special event, a consistently changing wine list, or a chef that takes time to speak with residents on a personal level and ask for their feedback – or to simply say hello – is paramount.

Improving fellowship among residents, families, guests and staff members also enhances the resident experience beyond the parameters of your facility. When residents are proud to host friends and have their children join them for a meal, it has an invaluable ripple effect outside to the greater community.

Remember, there are no better brand ambassadors then your very own residents who are happily living their best lives with purpose and pride!

About Unidine

Operating over 450 facilities across the United States, Unidine is the leading food and dining management service provider. Since 2001, Unidine’s success derives from consistent execution in four key areas – an exclusive focus on food and dining management services, a commitment to scratch cooking with fresh, seasonal, responsibly sourced ingredients, exceptional customer service and a corporate culture enlivened by each team members’ passion for culinary and service excellence. Unidine’s network of nutritionists and culinarians leverage the latest research to support cultural enrichment and wellness strategies for senior living residences, hospitals and behavioral health facilities. Learn more here.

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