A new generation of retirees is flocking to the resort-like social scene of today’s senior living communities. And they are making some delicious waves.
Baby boomers differ in many ways from the so-called “silent generation” that precedes them. Tony Sosa, the master menu planner at New Horizons at Marlborough, explains the impact this new demographic has had in that MetroWest retirement community’s dining rooms.
“Whereas the silent generation often favors meat-and-potatoes-style staples, many baby boomers consider themselves citizens of the world,” explains Sosa. “They’re well-traveled and bring with them a complex palate that demands greater variety.”
Salmon with mango sauce, coq au vin, curried chickpea chili, and vegan Impossible Burgers are just a few of the new dishes being devoured at New Horizons, which offers tailored programs for independent and assisted living as well as memory care.
New Horizons’ menus feature a wide array of ever-changing cuisines. Although the meals are planned weeks in advance, frequently scheduled “chef’s choice” slots allow the in-house culinary team to fulfill special requests or get creative with items such as swordfish, quesadillas, tomato strata, and gluten-free brownies.
In the summer, fresh vegetables are sourced from both local farms and the residents’ own extensive on-campus gardens. These resident “Green Thumb Society” members take charge of assorted vegetable crops, nurturing them from seedling to stalk and harvesting the ripened plants. Residents generously donate the fruits of their labors—squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, and diverse other vegetables—to New Horizons’ dining rooms.
In the spirit of democracy, Sosa also meets regularly with a resident-based Food Service Committee. These gatherings afford community members an open forum in which to provide feedback on current menu staples and suggest new recipes.
Sosa recalls a recent meeting when residents inquired about vegetarian and gluten-free meal options.
“Baby boomers have been conditioned to mind their health, including potential food intolerances,” explains Sosa, who has spent more than 30 years in the food and hospitality industries as a server, chef, and corporate manager.
Food and dining have long been important aspects of senior living. To baby boomers, however, freshly prepared, high-quality meals and a superior dining experience are top priorities.
Sosa notes that, before moving to New Horizons, many current residents dined out multiple times a week. And when they ate at home, they prepared thoughtful meals in well-equipped kitchens.
“Mealtimes aren’t only a dietary necessity—they’re a social event and a potential adventure,” said Sosa. “Having that variety in their food experiences is essential to many of our residents. They want—and deserve—a restaurant feel, rather than a cafeteria.”
For the more traditional eaters, New Horizons offers “always available” items such as sandwiches, omelets, and pasta that may be requested at any time. The community has found, however, that members of the silent generation are very open to trying new cuisine—particularly if their tablemates include baby boomers who are familiar with the more contemporary entrees.
“As our residents sample and enjoy new meals, their palates expand and their trust in the kitchen grows,” said Sosa. “The silent generation says, ‘this is fantastic,’ whereas the baby boomers say, ‘this is exactly as it should be.’”
At New Horizons at Marlborough, the dining experience continues to evolve. Next up is a chef’s action section in the dining room, where residents will watch as the chef prepares a meal.
“Dinner is not just about the food; it’s also about the experience,” said Sosa.
New Horizons at Marlborough is currently welcoming new residents to its food-forward community. Located on 40 acres of rolling meadows and woodlands and surrounded by deeded conservation land, this amenity-rich MetroWest campus offers assisted living, independent living, memory care, respite stays, and geri-psych programs.
Local foodies and their families are encouraged to contact New Horizons online or at 508-460-5200 to arrange a time to tour the campus, meet current residents and staff, and sample a gourmet home-cooked meal.