The Technology That’s Helping Older People Dine with Dignity

Gracewell  |  April 4, 2017
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Many of the changes we face as we get older remain invisible to younger generations – yet there is a steady stream of new tools and gadgets being developed to improve quality of life for older people. Little is known, for example, about the different ways older people can enjoy food, and the technology that can facilitate enjoyable dining.

Making the most of meal experiences for older people involves not only meeting their individual nutritional requirements, but above all ensuring that they can dine with dignity. To aid this, those working in the care sector or caring for loved ones need to consider everything from how older people relate to food, to the latest technological innovations designed with older people’s dignity and user experience in mind.

As Director of Dining and Procurement at Gracewell, Christopher Dean makes it his mission to be at the cutting edge of these developments.

Anti-tremor cutlery

Liftware is anti-tremor cutlery which Chris first encountered at a conference in the US. Owned by Google, it offers a selection of stabilising and levelling handles – designed to help people with hand tremors or limited hand and arm mobility retain dignity, confidence, and independence while dining. It represents the best in enterprise’s efforts to maintain dining as a pleasurable experience for older people.

Users, including residents at our communities and homes across the UK, are aided by the technology in the handle of this cutlery, which counters any tremors in their arms as they partake in a meal. These revolutionary tools make it possible for people with conditions such as Parkinson’s to feed themselves, rather than relying on others.

Dementia graze boxes

People living with dementia sometimes forget if and when they have last eaten, and therefore need additional support to ensure a regular food intake. Having a background in professional sports, I know how it important it is to meet every person’s individual caloric needs. So we equip residents with “dementia graze boxes” – boxes with high-calorie, nutritious snacks they can carry with them as they undertake what we call “purposeful walking”. These boxes have transparent lids, so that the snacks always remain within visibility.

Glass-fronted fridges

Similarly, the bistro areas in Gracewell homes offer 24/7 snacks presented in a visually appealing manner. These include fruit, smoothies, and cakes which are positioned at eye-level so that residents’ gazes meet them frequently – and those snacks which need refrigeration are kept in glass-fronted fridges.

Custom dementia china

Sunrise and Gracewell have developed custom china for residents living with dementia, in partnership with one of the best potteries in the world in Stoke-on-Trent, the World Capital of Ceramics. We previously had to import custom dementia china from the US, but have been successful in developing the design with a UK-based company.

The plates are bright-coloured but have a blue rim, as maximum colour contrast is proven to seize the attention of those with cognitive and visual impairments. Dinner plates are also deeper and shaped in a specific way to make it easier to scoop up food. For all this, the china still retains an appealing home-style design, ensuring that residents don’t feel that their specific needs isolate them from others.

Thermomix food processors

Thermomix is a high-end, multi-purpose food processor particularly suited to preparing meals for older people. It can be used to blend as well as weigh and cook meals from scratch. Its powerful engine means that it can prepare pureed meals which retain an appealing texture and taste for older people with dysphagia – swallowing difficulties which often occur with dementia.

NEMi dairy products

NEMi milk and cream are innovative dairy products naturally enriched with Selenium, an essential mineral that supports the immune system to function at its optimum. A large body of research has suggested that many of us are deficient in Selenium, without which our body’s ability to fight and recover from illness and infection is greatly reduced. This immunity support is vital for the long-term health of Sunrise and Gracewell residents.

Own-recipe smoothie range

Sunrise and Gracewell created the role of Head of Nutrition and Hydration to ensure this crucial area of care receives the attention it needs. Nutritionist Sophie Murray, who holds the role, has created an own-recipe smoothie range designed to support wellbeing. Older people who may need assistance with weight gain but find it difficult to eat, for example, can try one of Sophie’s 14 different flavours of smoothies crafted from natural ingredients. These are designed with health benefits for older people in mind, to supplement their food intake mid-morning or mid-afternoon.

Electronic care plans

In July, we will be launching electronic care plans tailored to each resident in our communities and homes, which link up across the different areas like residents’ suites and the bistro or restaurant to ensure that food intake for each resident is tracked throughout the day and night. 

There are so many technological and nutritional innovations at our service, which help us ensure that dignity and enjoyment always remain at the heart of dining for older people.