The crinkling of a newspaper can be heard over the clinking of coffee cups and soft music filling the dining room. Laughter rings out from one of the tables, the community newsletter open so everyone can see.
“I’m a star,” one of the residents says, pointing to a picture of herself in the newsletter. Her friends begin asking for her autograph, the entire table laughing and joking as they flip through the newsletter, looking to see if any of the rest of them have made the paper.
Maple Grove Care Community in Brampton started a pleasurable dining program earlier this year. In an effort to make meal times more like home, they’ve subscribed to newspapers and magazines for residents to read while they wait for their meal. Coffee and tea are also served, and resident-picked music is played softly while everyone is seated.
“It’s important because it makes a more home-like environment and a relaxing, enjoyable dining experience,” said Michele MacKenzie, executive director of Maple Grove.
The programs department bought holders for the reading materials, which include Maple Grove’s newsletter, the Toronto Sun, Chatelaine and Time magazines. They also bought stereos for the individual dining rooms after discovering that there were some discrepancies in music taste. Maple Grove also invested in tables with four adjustable sides so that residents can sit with their friends, even if they require the table at a different height.
“Residents have preferences in where they sit, who they sit with, who their table mates are, and we try to accommodate that as much as we can,” said Michele.
There have also been slight changes to the culinary experience. Maple Grove, in partnership with Compass Marquise, recently began a touch the table program, where their chef will make a point of speaking with residents for feedback after the meal. They’ve also placed spice racks on each of the tables, which include requests from residents, so that each resident can customize their meal, the same as they would at home.
“The immediate feedback is that people are enjoying themselves,” said Michele. “There was also some feedback from Debbi Couwenberg, our culinary partner from Sienna Support Services, who really noticed how much the residents were enjoying themselves, and they were reading and laughing about the newsletter, and it was really pleasant.”