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Using technology to improve the dining experience

It’s the right of all people receiving aged care to have an enjoyable dining experience. However, older people can struggle with loss of appetite, loneliness or boredom. This can affect their experience and decrease their enjoyment.

Aged care services face an ongoing challenge to provide a dining experience that is comfortable and enjoyable.  

Some aged care services are using creativity and technology to meet these challenges. They’re using innovative solutions like virtual reality (VR) headsets and smartphone applications. These technologies can increase a person’s enjoyment of mealtimes. They can also help improve communication and engagement.

How some aged care services are using VR headsets

On our visits we’ve seen providers using VR headsets to take residents into virtual environments.  

One service was improving mealtimes for residents by taking them on virtual tours of different countries before serving food from that country. For example, a walk around the Leaning Tower of Pisa before serving Italian food!  

Services have found it can help to:

  • stimulate the appetite
  • create anticipation for the upcoming meal
  • create memorable mealtimes that engage people’s senses and encourage social interaction between residents and staff.  

VR may not be suitable for all residents though. If you’re considering this technology, you should make sure your residents are comfortable and happy to use VR. You will also need to provide different options for people who don’t want to use VR.  

How some aged care services are using applications or ‘apps’

We’ve seen providers using apps to help people choose meals and keep track of nutrition and needs.

Apps can give residents an opportunity to select their meals. This can sometimes be simpler than using paper-based forms and menus.  

The app shows images of meals and the different options that are available to meet the person’s nutrition needs. This helps support choice.  

Apps can support meal preparation and health professionals by:

  • linking with foodservice systems
  • collating meal selections  
  • providing useful information on residents’ eating habits.  

Some providers are using apps to share photos of meals and mealtimes with families and carers. This means loved ones can see the type and quality of food. It improves feedback and keeps loved ones connected and informed about a person’s diet.  

These technologies may not be suitable in all situations. But they can be a creative solution to some of the food, nutrition and dining challenges providers face.  

These technologies have the potential to revolutionise the way meals are planned, prepared and enjoyed in aged care. Which in turn will contribute to better satisfied residents with improved wellbeing.

Food, Nutrition and Dining Hotline

People receiving aged care, their representatives, approved providers, aged care staff, advocacy services, other health and medical professionals can call the Commission’s Food, Nutrition and Dining Hotline with enquiries, questions, concerns and complaints about food, nutrition and dining.

The Food, Nutrition and Dining Hotline is available on 1800 844 044, 9.00 am to 5.00 pm AEDT, Monday to Friday.   

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