I am delighted when friends of mine, knowing my passion for my work, bring personal stories and feedback to me from the retirement and assisted living industry. This is another recent one that reinforces the importance of my beliefs in the training curriculum I’ve created.
She began to tell me, “I was enjoying my visit with Ellie as five of us sat around the lunch table chatting about the ups and downs of our lives. We were stunned and speechless when the newest and youngest addition to the group said, ‘I have a hard time believing this is my last home.’ All eyes were on her, and I’m afraid my mouth was wide open.
She appeared to be 65 and had only recently moved in when her husband entered the Alzheimer’s unit in the next building. She moved into a 3-bedroom apartment on the fifth floor.
Four of the others, now in their 70s and 80s, had lived here between 6 and 15 years. Ellie was now in her third year and loved it from the day she moved in.
One of the ladies, a quick thinker, said, ‘I remember thinking that when I first moved here. I left my friends behind, and my family wasn’t coming to see me daily. I knew no one.
That all changed with the help of our dynamite staff! They introduced me to others they thought I would fit with and went out of their way to chat in the hallways when we met. They also asked brief questions, which people ask when they get to know you. It didn’t take long before I was raising my hand in greeting. Of course, I have my favorites, just like I have favorite nieces and nephews. You’ll see. It will come.”
Another of the ladies followed up with: “I hope you noticed how friendly the staff is to all of us. If you aren’t standoffish, and I know you aren’t, they are the first to make you feel at home. When you know them by name and a little about them, they become what I call – your in-house family. Familiar. Like your favorite pair of comfortable shoes.” She laughed at her joke.
Ellie said, “We promptly became your friends when Sylvia brought you to our table. She knew instinctively to bring you to us. Soon you will find more. Plus, when you fall into the routines and join the activities you like, you will feel more at ease. The staff will help you.”
Kind Dining® knows and teaches how the staff can be your community’s best asset. Using our training curriculum, they will learn how to incorporate small acts of kindness into their daily routine. One of those kindnesses is helping a new resident feel at home.
Be ♥ Kind Tip: It is easy to feel at home when surrounded by friends at the dining table.
Moving into a new home can be strange and difficult for anyone at any time.
Making your last move into a senior living community, knowing it is the last time you will change your residence, can be unsettling. This change in a new resident’s life can be scary, especially if they are stepping into a place where they know no one.
Your staff has the power to make new residents feel comfortable and at home with the many ways that the Kind Dining ® training curriculum prepares them for that very task.
Your food serving staff will immediately recognize new faces entering the dining room. Leading them to a table they know are friendly residents who will welcome newcomers and making introductions is a huge step in getting new folks settled in.
Offering a friendly greeting and a few words of welcome goes a long way with a person walking into a dining room with unfamiliar faces. It is a small kindness that has huge and happy results. It is also important to extend that friendliness when meeting new residents in the hallways.
Learn names and use them as often as possible. It helps people feel they belong when they hear their name spoken. Sharing a word or a pleasant greeting invites a person to respond kindly and increases their sense of security. It is the beginning of a conversation, and conversation leads to a feeling of ease, comfort, and familiarity.
Kind Dining® training educates your staff by giving them the knowledge to use in their daily actions of serving older adults.
It instills confidence they use to create a culture of belonging for new and all seniors in their community and develop that sense of belonging for themselves.
It develops the incentive to stay with a company that values them highly enough to invest in extended education, honing their skills, and the confidence in knowing the organization appreciates their work.
This confidence works and is a way to welcome new residents, to dissolve any feelings of isolation or the discomfort of moving into a new home.
Your staff can make people content knowing they chose the right senior living community to spend the last chapter of their lives.
Making new residents feel at home is the best possible bit of thoughtfulness they can do.
Kind Dining® training helps to reduce burn-out by helping people learn new skills, gain confidence, and value in what they do. They learn to manage their behavior and instill accountability.
Be ♥ Kind Tip: Your staff can help create the feeling of home for new residents.
Many friendships are formed and carried through long periods over the lunch/dinner table. ‘Let’s meet for lunch’ is a common phrase that indicates wanting to spend some time with a friend.
It’s nice to have lunch served to you but it’s the friendship that is the magnet. Even casual friendships are important to us. To share a meal with a friend, or potential friend, is a bonding moment. To hold business meetings over lunch forms friendships that break down barriers and continue to work long after the meal is finished and the table is cleared.
Forming friendships on the job is a vital part of having a smoother workday. We all know there are days when everything goes wrong.
Now picture going to that friend at work who is the very one to help you solve a problem and put you back on track. Friends who have been on the job years longer than you, can give you tips on how to do your work easier, with intention.
Sometimes a friend is like having an extra pair of hands. On the other hand, it is just as gratifying when you can be the friend to help your coworker. There is a particular feeling of attachment in your gut when you have extended yourself to help another.
There is a spring in your step as you prepare to go to work because you know you will see friends to greet you, exchange the latest news, and bring you up to date on any events.
Having kindness about you is beneficial when working in a senior or assisted living where you will be helping residents in one way or another. That same kind of attitude is an invitation to your coworkers for friendship. You all share the same work reality and that is powerful in forming friendships on the job.
It is easier to understand a dilemma that arises and discussing it is uncomplicated when you know you are all immersed in the same field. That also applies when you want to share happy news or accomplishments.
Who could better share the joy than someone who knows the situation? Your coworkers seek the same goals you do for the residents. When issues are shared it builds a better working relationship.
Unexpected friendships in the community create strength and a positive growth of self.
Kind Dining® training sessions open the doors for these friendships to form. Discussion and alliance as a team at work are encouraged.
Be ♥ Kind Tip: Friendships with coworkers create strength and a positive growth of self.
After an exchange of comments about friendships in today’s world, this true story came to me:
“UPS in my neck of the woods, otherwise called a neighborhood, many of us have formed an unusual friendship . . with the UPS driver! He is so friendly, considerate, and kind that even though we only know his first name, we all consider him a friend.
Many of us meet for lunch at the local café on Main Street in town. We learned that the UPS guy has lunch there every Friday. To show our appreciation, one of my group of friends occasionally pre-pays for his lunch. The lunch prices run fairly close so it is easy to just cover a general cost, including a tip. He never knows which one of us does it.
It is funny, whenever I see the brown UPS truck coming up a street I’m driving on, I wave. I have no idea if it is my delivery man or not. It doesn’t make any difference. I’ve never met a grouchy UPS delivery person wearing the familiar brown uniform, yet they always cheerfully wave back! I wonder if they are hired for their smile instead of physical capability.”
Friendships in senior and assisted living communities affect everyone touched by friendship without even realizing how. When a food serving team member brings a tray to a resident’s room, carrying a smile, a happy comment like ‘Guess what good news I have for you today’ or a question like ‘Tell me how you are doing today’ the server is inviting the resident to respond with a pleasant comment. The room becomes light-hearted. Encouragement is introduced and no one even notices what is happening. The server is guiding the resident to enjoy the experience. This is a casual, but powerful, friendship at work.
This exchange of casual friendship can grow into much more. There can be trading of conversation that uncovers the background of one or the other learning about a culture unfamiliar to them. This opens the mind to a wider scope. It also builds trust between residents and staff members as it builds respect, one for the other. It works.
Friendships between coworkers are also a step in building a stronger foundation for the company. Friends help and support each other making their lives better. In Kind Dining® training sessions, follow-up practices and discussions of friendships will reinforce the training sessions. Friends enjoy each other’s company and sharing their experiences both on and off the job is part of that friendship.
Be ♥ Kind Tip: Friendships on the job can change the way you look at your work.
Joyce was talking on the phone with her long-time and long-distance friend David. He lives in the northeast, and she lives in the southeast in the same town as his mother. They grew up together, and though they married and had lived far apart, they always remained devoted friends by computer or telephone.
“I couldn’t keep flying down to check on Mom every month and worry the rest of the month about how she was handling being in a wheelchair at home. I was terrified she would tumble out of it and not be able to get up. Her friend Paula stopped in every week, but though I was grateful, Mom needed more supervision than that.
I finally convinced Mom to come to live in an assisted living community near me. I now visit as often as I wish and feel much better knowing she is getting the attention she needs and deserves. And by the way, she loves it!
She had all the wrong ideas of what assisted living is in reality. There were too many old, out-worn ideas rolling around in her head. She knows better now, though.”
Joyce, who often volunteers to work with seniors who need help, replied with a question. “What do you think has impacted her new life the most?”
“Believe it. She has become a social butterfly! She has met like-minded friends who share her passions, especially reading, word puzzles, cards, and board games. The computer was her only companion before. Her new group eats together nearly every day.
Any signs of depression have disappeared completely. It always concerned me that she was alone too much before she came north. With the help of the dietitian, she has lost 40 lbs. in a healthy manner and can now walk short distances. Her arthritis seems to bother her much less, and her breathing has improved. One of her particular friends is a charming gent who is by her side often. ” David’s smile could be heard through the cell phone.
Surveys have revealed that the social environment benefits the lives of older adults. Socially sharing meals with neighbors with the same interests develops a support network. This aids in living a satisfied life. It creates the feeling of home in the assisted living community.
Kind Dining® training curriculum teaches staff how to draw residents into the conversation, build the basis for relationships, and connect with residents. The knowledgeable staff knows active seniors will bypass depression by having sharper minds in friendship exchanges.
Elders who intellectually engage in mental stimulation with others lessen their risk of dementia. Daily or even weekly, sharing the comfort of the dining table provides necessary social interaction.
Be ♥ Kind Tip: Do your food servers use conversation to encourage elders?
Healthy people who enjoy living solo know when it is time to be social and mix with friends.
Living in a senior living community makes it easy.
All a resident needs to do is step outside their apartment home and head for the dining room or to a planned activity event. The dining room is the central location for socializing on most residents’ days. It’s where they meet to talk about which events they plan to attend and discuss their hobbies and interests. It is a good place to discover others who share the same pleasures. It is also where the food serving team can assist residents in finding like-minded people to share a table with.
Any member of the staff is happy to suggest or guide someone who is new to the community or anyone who is naturally shy. Excellent training and practice enable a staff member the confidence needed to reach out to a community resident.
Surveys reveal that socially active older adults enhance their health benefits and are generally happier than those who spend too much time alone.
Choosing to become acquainted with others by joining a table at mealtime is effortless. A food server learns in training and discussion sessions how to help a new resident find the table best suited.
The ideal assisted living community staff members have adopted a friendly persona as a way of life, so it is easy to encourage residents to be social by suggesting various activities. Many of these activities are offered to appeal to those without the physical strength to participate. There are board games, card games, Bingo, book discussion groups, sewing, knitting, singing, music, coloring, painting, and movie nights. Participating in these recreations will dissolve loneliness and improve a person’s reticence. Meeting someone who enjoys the same events will create group friendships and a network of support key to well-being. It also increases the feeling of home.
Friendships play a vital role in buffering against negative effects of general health, dark moods, physical functioning, and aging. Intellectually engaged, mentally stimulated residents hold less risk of developing dementia when they participate in activities daily or at least weekly. They form self-identity and a sense of belonging. Family members can relax during visits, knowing their mom or dad is receiving care when they need it. Their anxiety can disappear, and they can enjoy the visit with peace of mind.
Kind Dining ® training modules, now available online, teach the food serving staff in communities new ways to further the dining experience for residents. Staff will learn to work to build a better food serving team and explore the science and psychology of dining hours.
Be ♥ Kind Tip: Does your staff understand the complexities of assisted living single residents?
“Whenever I am filling out forms and asked if I live alone, I always fill in the blank space with ‘Yes’, and somewhere near it, I write ‘by choice’. The form taker always asks what I mean. I explain that I like to be alone. It is solitude after years of too many people around me. To be alone does not mean that one is lonely. Too often, people confuse that fact. I am a people person who loves solitude. When I need companionship, I know where and who to go visit.”
A friend was repeating the conversation about an application form she received with that comment on it. Since it struck her as unusual, she brought it to the attention of a colleague for discussion.
Loneliness has been a severe problem everywhere during the pandemic but has eased up some since the waning of isolation restrictions. For some older adults, loneliness comes from losing friends and/or family to the coronavirus.
Loneliness is devastating. It lowers the resistance of immunity to illness, declines cognitive ability, and increases high blood pressure, heart disease, and obesity. It is known to increase depression. It attacks the physical, mental, and emotional health.
Loneliness remains a problem in many senior living and assisted living communities. It is a target for employees of those communities to notice and help eradicate it.
Employees who have benefitted from excellent training practices extend friendliness to all residents and coworkers. Though, it calls for more effort than a friendly ‘hello’. Show sincere interest in a lonely resident and maintain a running conversation with them. It helps. Encourage them to partake in activities you describe as lively and amusing. Introducing them directly to other residents you know will extend kindness and caring.
Social isolation crept into all aspects of senior living and LTC communities.
The training and practice meetings share examples of dissolving loneliness when spotted. This also refers to coworkers. They, too, were affected by the devastation the pandemic left behind.
Cultivate and seek social connections during your work day. Friendships are a cure for loneliness. Cross-generational interactions are excellent for defraying feelings of being unnoticed or unwanted. Social connections are key factors in warding off depression and dementia.
Kind Dining ® curriculum was designed because we care. We believe developing and expanding the skills of your staff are signs that the organization is investing in them. This investment works to reduce the epidemic of loneliness, isolation, and feelings of not truly belonging. The training and practice instill compassion and provide a true quality of life for your residents.
Be ♥ Kind Tip: Loneliness attacks physical, mental, and emotional health.
There are no reasons to be lonely when you live in an Independent or Assisted Living community. Yet many residents have become lonely despite being closely surrounded by others in their age range and various life-enrichment activities to appeal to their interests.
Losing friends and family during the recent pandemic has impacted many, allowing a feeling of isolation to settle in. It is difficult to overcome that feeling for some, even though an extended sense of loneliness can cause a higher stress hormone cortisol, depression, and social anxiety.
When food servers notice an elder showing signs of loneliness, they may mention in conversation how becoming a volunteer for a community event is a great way to meet new friends without the awkwardness of stepping into a circle of strangers. Just increasing their social activities is a step toward decreasing isolated feelings. Getting to know their neighbors will boost their morale.
Living a stress-free lifestyle is offered in senior care communities to encourage healthy living and wellness by providing social opportunities. It also allows residents to stay independent in a safe, friendly environment.
Some residents need a little nudge from a familiar staff member whose advice they respect. Staying active lessens loneliness and the risk of Alzheimer’s and increases happy contentment. It’s easier to start a conversation while strolling onsite pathways around the community, sitting next to someone at an outdoor concert, or saying ‘hello’ to a dog walker.
Let it be known that friendships formed become chosen families.
The dining room or café is the most popular spot for social engagements. Mealtimes are much more than only eating good food. It’s a social experience that provides an easy opportunity to introduce oneself to new people. Making connections can be assisted by caring, helpful food servers. They can sometimes guide a fresh resident to a group that welcomes newcomers. It’s great to plan a day over coffee in the morning and share the resulting experience over dinner that evening.
More attention is now being paid to the loneliness residents are experiencing in the aftermath of the coronavirus.
Kind Dining® has been aware of the situation and designed a training curriculum to teach your staff how to respond and improve life with skill and caring. We have created this curriculum for the culture of belonging, with ongoing, continual learning through training for your staff, from which they also benefit. It gives them an incentive to stay with your company because they get to work at an organization that places value on them. They achieve the true quality of life for residents, quality of work for staff, and quality of success for the Senior Living Marketplace. Complete success lies in intentionally focusing on the older generation led by kind dining and civility.
Be ♥ Kind Tip: Excellent training and practice eradicate ignorance in your staff.
“I know many people, women in particular, will stay home with a salad in front of them rather than eat in a restaurant alone. I am not one of those people. I love it because I hear the best stories by listening in on what is being said around me.” A writer friend told me this recently.
She is a strongly independent woman who also travels alone, apparently for the same reason. She goes to talk with strangers who teach her about their surroundings. This is the base for several of her stories. Many of those are about travel. She does this because she is a writer. When she wants to relax and just be herself, she gathers friends around her table and begins by pouring the wine.
As my writer friend knows, most people are not comfortable eating alone. The pleasure for them is sharing a meal and socializing with long-time friends and finding new ones. This is especially true in retirement and assisted care dining. Making the decision to move into a Senior Care community is a major change in a person’s life. Often the decision comes at an emotional time, after losing a life partner or an oncoming physical disability.
It is a time to be welcomed into a new, friendly social group. It is not a time to be lonely. The food serving team can help in a great way by doing small things. Start with a big smile and sincere greeting. Offer to introduce them to a table or group you know will invite them in. Senior and LTC communities are great places to spend time with people who share the same discussion subjects as you enjoy. It can be a carefree lifestyle designed for people of a certain age. I repeatedly hear “It’s the best decision I ever made!”
All throughout history it is reported that gathering around the warmth of a dining table is a way of getting to know another, build a relationship, even a job interview is often performed over the lunch table. Therefore, Kind Dining® believes it is essentially significant to build a powerful food serving team.
Our curriculum encourages adopting a culture of belonging, a training benefit to staff as incentive to belong to their community because their organization places value in who they are and the work they do. The same organization is investing skill development that works to reduce the epidemic of loneliness, isolation and instills a sense of belonging. A team who trains together creates unity and builds that same sense of belonging.
Be ♥ Kind Tip: Encourage your residents to share the joy of the dining table with new residents.
Some of the best information comes to me from friends overhearing conversations at lunchtime in restaurants.
This conversation came to me from a friend:
“When are they going to understand that I am not my grandmother? I am their grandmother. I am different and experience life differently. They cannot assume I will think like others my age just because I am that age. I still think for myself and make my own choices. That is important to me. It was my choice to relocate my home base to a Senior Living Community because I am independent and demand I am treated so by everyone, family, friend, colleague, and staff member.”
Her dining companion quickly replied, “Which, by the way, I have introduced politeness and kindness to a food server recently. I reminded her of that very same idea. I am to be treated with respect and friendliness, and then we will get along just fine. I reminded her that the white hair on my head was not an indication of a grey brain. I’m still an individual, thinking my way. We may enjoy some interesting conversations ahead of us. She seems intelligent enough, just was not taught good manners.”
Both staff and residents have experienced incivility in their daily routines. Not all elderly people are the same, a fact that needs to be recognized by food serving staff. Life in senior communities does not need to suffer these awkward moments when a resident corrects the poor manners of a food server which may cause feelings of resentment. Training teaches how vital the dining experience is to every resident and each food server, including caregiving staff. When performed correctly and with joy, mealtimes are appreciated by all. It is an uplifting happening.
My hospitality background set the tone for the Kind Dining® training curriculum. It introduces interpersonal and technical skills that improve our communities and help to build relationships. The inclusion of staff serving meals, from all departments, in this training is vital. We also address emotional control tools and help your food serving team to become more engaged in self-improvement on their way to becoming highly valued employees by the company.
Kind Dining® training series shows commitment to helping those who want to succeed, discover a new sense of belonging and a meaning for their work, and feel passionate about their work.
Learn how Kind Dining® training can transform the dining experience in your community here.
Be ♥ Kind Tip: Older people in your community do not have the same expectations.