It is estimated over the next 40 years the number of Australians aged 85 and over is set to quadruple, from 0.4 million in 2010 to 1.8 million by 2050*. So, it’s not surprising the proportion of the Australian population requiring residential care is also set to skyrocket, reaching 8 per cent.
As the ageing population grows so too does demand for residential aged care and with it, the need for food supply that is geriatric-friendly. But chefs who work in aged care know it’s not as simple as some might think.
Everyone ages differently, meaning that there is a range of difficulties that impact residents. Menu planning for a group while catering for the individual is a constant challenge, but nursing homes also face the challenge of addressing these individual requirements while complying with a strict set of government standards and regulations.
A nutritionally sound menu is completely worthless if the foods offered are not actually consumed. So aged care chefs must incorporate strategies that make food more appealing and also easier to eat.
Many aged care homes have found that portion control servings (especially in desserts and snacks) are useful for residents who miss meals, are hungry between meals or residents that refuse to eat in the dining room.
Pre-packaged portions are a good solution to these problems. Things like pre-packaged cake slices (fruit cake is popular among aged care residents) and fruit purees are easy to deliver between meals.)
So, is your kitchen taking advantage of these products? Even aged care facilities with cook-serve foodservice systems can benefit from portion control snacks being on hand.
Perhaps more importantly, from July this year, new Aged Care Quality Standards will come into effect. It will include significant changes and improvements for chefs in aged care as foodservices features prominently.
Maybe the most important focus is the positioning of the resident as the priority. This may have come about after recent media outcry over Australian aged care residents being fed on just over six dollars a day which raised questions about the quality of meals in aged care.
We know how hard it is to stay within a budget often assigned by those further up the food chain. But including snacks and desserts as ‘standard extras’ is a simple option to ensure that food is always available for residents outside of the standard menu plan.
Food is a universal joy. If you have any questions about portion control packaged foods, or other options we have available specifically for the aged care sector, get in touch with us or visit our Facebook page to join the conversation.
*Productivity Commission Report 2011