Most institutions that implement wellness programs know that the concept must go beyond simply putting in low-calorie meal options and starting an exercise club. They also try to educate customers about wellness and try to encourage a more comprehensive lifestyle change.
Cura Hospitality, a dining management company that specializes in servicing senior living facilities, has gone even further with a program called LivingLife, which extends the wellness mission into six specific wellness areas: vocational, social, emotional, intellectual, physical and spiritual.
“With LivingLife, we use those other areas of wellness as a frame to put an extra twist on what we already do well, which is operate dining,” explains Cura District Manager Jim Crossin. “It forces us to consider how the things we do can impact those six other aspects of wellness.
“For example, take something like a theme meal, which is a standard event in retirement communities. Traditionally, it was basically just about the food. But it can also have components that involve other areas such as a social element, an emotional element and even an intellectual element if you use the occasion to educate by talking about the food and the traditions surrounding it.”
Crossin says Cura is developing programs that use its core food expertise as a starting point but then seek to encompass as many of the six aspects of wellness as possible.
These include gardening programs — one community even maintains a small farm — where Cura chefs participate in the activities and use them as opportunities to deliver presentations on the crops and how they are used in the kitchen.
Cooking programs involve residents in the planning and preparation of meals as a social and educational activity and Cura's traveling chefs program has evolved into a “lecture series” in which chefs give presentations as well as cook special meals.
Another popular activity is tours of nearby farms and processing facilities where residents can learn about how food is grown and handled. Cura is even extending its existing Culinary College, originally designed to educate its own staff, into an academic program designed for residents.
LivingLife activities also benefit Cura clients, who realize a significant marketing and public relations benefit from the program. “Potential clients who tour through these facilities while these activities are going on can't help but be impressed,” Crossin comments.
The success of the program is reflected in higher resident satisfaction numbers, something Cura works hard to earn for itself and its clients. “It's difficult to get good satisfaction scores only with food programs,” says Crossin. “You have to go beyond that and with LivingLife, we can do that.”