The pandemic reshaped the habits and behaviors of people across the nation, but perhaps no age group was more affected than seniors. Concerns over exposure to the virus caused seniors to stay home, self-isolate and learn new ways to get essentials like food and groceries. Baby Boomers and seniors in their 60s, 70s and 80s embraced digital ordering options for meals and food services in record numbers. In the early months of the pandemic, digital restaurant ordering among seniors over age 65 increased more than 400%.   

In order to gain a better understanding of seniors’ use of (and interest in) digital food ordering options, Nutrislice conducted an online survey in March 2021 of more than 1,600 retired U.S. adults aged 62 and older. 

We polled them on a variety of topics including whether they are living in a senior living community or considering moving to one within the next two years, the importance of nutritional information when ordering meals, how frequently they use technology and more. We also asked their opinion when it comes to the dining and foodservice programs within their community, their experiences and preferences with digital menus and contactless ordering services. 

In this series, we’ll share some of the key findings from the survey and discuss what they mean for senior living foodservice programs. 

Key Finding #1 - Senior Living Communities are Behind When It Comes to Providing Digital Ordering Options

Though the pandemic has accelerated the adoption of ordering technologies in the broader foodservice industry, our survey revealed that on-site dining and foodservice programs in senior living communities appear to be behind the times. A majority (62%) of respondents currently residing in senior living communities said their on-site dining does not offer any online or mobile options for viewing menus or ordering food. Only 26% of respondents say the foodservice program in their community has a website or mobile app for viewing menus and only 16% had access to a website or mobile app for ordering. Only 10% say their on-site dining has digital signage for viewing menus when on-site at the restaurant – a practice that could help these dining locations reopen more safely once the pandemic subsides and seniors return to dining in-person.

62% of Communities do not have any digital dining tech

As more seniors have grown comfortable using interactive menus and ordering options during the pandemic, their positive experiences with these technologies at off-site restaurants and grocery stores has left them wanting more from their on-site food programs. 40% of respondents said they are “not satisfied at all” with the digital menus and ordering options available to them through their senior living community, and an additional 28% said they are only somewhat satisfied. That means a total of nearly 70% of residents are unhappy with the lack of digital options available to them – something that surely any foodservice director in a senior living community should be concerned about.

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Satisfaction with the foodservice and dining programs available to them is an important part of a resident’s overall satisfaction with their living situation – and can serve as a key differentiator as communities look to attract new residents. Foodservice operators in senior living – whether it’s a retirement community, an assisted living community, a skilled nursing home or any other type – should look to adopt more solutions including digital menus, digital ordering and digital signage

These technologies will become increasingly important over the next decade as Baby Boomers age and begin moving into senior living communities in large numbers. By the year 2030 all Baby Boomers (a group of approximately 73 million people) will be age 65 or older. Many will bring with them higher expectations than previous generations when it comes to the use of technology in their daily lives.

Digital menus and digital signage solutions from Nutrislice not only provide seniors a convenient way to view the meal options available to them, but also easy access to important nutritional and dietary information they might need when deciding what to order. Residents, their guests or caregivers can simply tap on a menu item to see the specific ingredients and nutritional details that help them make an informed decision. At the same time, interactive menus and signage also make the foodservice operator’s job easier by making it simple to change or cycle menus as needed and push those updates out to all locations. 

Nutrislice solutions provide an easy way for residents to order meals that is not only pleasant and convenient, but also safer by enabling a completely contactless experience. Digital ordering technologies also help foodservice operators improve operational efficiency by enabling them to manage orders in a digital queue, set pickup windows, throttle orders at peak times and generate customizable reports on order and item counts.  

It’s clear from our survey that there is strong desire among residents for more digital menu and ordering options. Senior living communities should aim to meet these desires and also appeal to prospective residents by providing the types of convenient and safe digital services that seniors have grown accustomed to. 

To learn more about Nutrislice solutions for senior living communities, click here

Check back soon for part two in our blog series to learn more key findings from our retiree survey.