By Susan Saldibar

One area that the pandemic has really hammered is dining. Not only in restaurant closures, but look what it’s done to senior living! Residents afraid to come down to the dining room, family members worried about loved ones getting nutritious meals, staff grabbing junk food in between caring for residents.

It’s times like these that we look for answers from organizations that deal with these issues every day. Morrison Living (a Senior Living Foresight partner) is one of those organizations. And I spoke recently with Regan Medzhibzher, VP, Marketing & Communications for Morrison Living, and Rachel Bell, iDirector of Communications.

Morrison Living has taken a lot of time and care to bring to life what they are calling their “Next Normal” initiatives designed to raise up and invigorate staff, bring a healthier and happier dining experience for residents and incorporate technology into guarding the health and wellbeing of everyone.

There’s a lot to the Next Normal, but here is a summary of the key elements. 

Staffing: Safety, Communication, and Recognition

  • Safety. This will become even more important in 2021. Morrison Living urges complete transparency to staff and residents about the health status of your community and what you are doing to keep it clean and safe. Every team member and stakeholder should understand that workplace safety is your top priority.
  • Communication. Morrison Living suggests that leaders communicate often with staff members. Let them know that you are open to their needs for schedule flexibility, transportation support, and shifts in duties. Consider using internal social media sites to communicate and engage on a more personal level with team members.
  • Appreciation. Workers in senior living are referred to as “heroes” for good reason. Morrison Living urges leadership to show appreciation for all their efforts; both large and small. Broadcast the accomplishments of your staff on digital displays, social media, and newsletters. Make it easy for residents to recognize staff members who are particularly helpful. Reward staff members with regular tokens of appreciation such as gifts, gift cards, and possibly even temporary pay increases for work beyond their regular duties.

Dining: Resident-Driven Flexibility and Options

Morrison Living has developed many ways to create a personal approach to dining while adhering to strict CDC best practices. Here are a few:

  • Balanced menu-building. Your community’s menus and service options should enable you to “personalize” your residents’ culinary experience with offerings that support their dietary needs, preferences, schedules, and moods. For instance, you can provide “comfort foods” that are also healthy. Finger foods can be healthy and easier for older residents to handle.
  • Inspiring wellness. Morrison Living is a big believer in food as “medicine” and urges communities to make healthier decisions about what their residents eat. It is important to make it easy and delicious for residents and staff to “choose healthy”. This can be done through promotions and events that feature foods promoting brain health and enhanced immunity. Feature locally grown produce whenever possible.
  • Leveraging technology. Morrison Living has, with input from residents and staff members, developed options for communities to give residents access to more healthy foods and an enjoyable dining experience, even with restrictions in place:
    • Distance ordering either online or through kiosks.
    • Mobile outlets, satellite locations that provide snacks, beverages, and what Morrison Living refers to as “grab-and-go” items.
    • Robotics and Automated Delivery (RAD), a program that provides touchless delivery of food items in the form of delivery robots and food lockers.
    • Market delivery options, which include mini-markets on wheels for door-to-door distribution for residents who remain in their rooms or apartments.

Environment: The New “Clean”

Never before has your internal environment been more critical to the health and well-being of your residents. Morrison Living has created an entire set of initiatives with ground-breaking technologies centered around establishing clean, healthy, and inspiring environments for senior living. Here are just a few:

  • Be sure to incorporate all areas of potential germ transmission into your cleaning program. That includes hands, surfaces, water, air, and waste management.
  • Publish regularly updated standards and measure compliance and outcomes.
  • Establish and maintain a supply line to the most effective EPA-approved products and proven innovations.
  • Make use of technologies, like electrostatic sprayers, which enable 360-degree, touchless disinfection, and ATP cleaning verification, as recommended by the CDC.

After a year of turmoil in this industry, Morrison Living is aware of the importance of its role. As they wrote in a recent piece on the Next Normal, “New safety measures, designed for these unprecedented times, won’t change our promise to be the best part of someone’s day. But things are different. People’s needs and perceptions of safety, connection, and hospitality have changed. It’s time we look ahead, adapting our services and spaces so our residents and associates will thrive in the “Next Normal.” 

For more information, click here to learn how Morrison Living can develop unique solutions for your community.

Click here to read comments and join the conversation about this article.