Published on October 19, 2017

Reawakening Seniors’ Senses to the Pleasure of Eating

A highlight of the day for many people, mealtimes are especially important for seniors living in nursing homes. They provide structure, but meals should also be a moment of pleasure. Yet, due to choking risks, many seniors are given blended food because it is considered easy to swallow. This not only depletes their interest in eating; it is also scientifically unfounded, since semisolid foods actually cause more than 60% of cases of food/foreign body choking among the elderly.  

To help them find renewed pleasure in eating and improve the quality of life for seniors, Sodexo teamed up with chefs, caregivers, nutrition managers and speech therapists to create the Harmonie project. “Eating well is not just a matter of nutrition,” said Martin Culis, Project Manager, “but of stimulating the appetite by enhancing the taste, variety, presentation and texture of food.”  

Our ambition was to give our elders a renewed taste for life. This project resonates with my passion, which is being a chef – a purveyor of happiness.
Michel Bras, Michelin three-star chef 

More Than Tasty recipes 

Harmonie also aims to stimulate seniors’ minds and senses. “Chewing engages the brain,” said Xavier Cormary, a speech therapist, explaining that memory, attention and cognition are all solicited by the act of eating, chewing and swallowing.  

Michelin three-star chef Michel Bras worked with the Harmonie team to develop tempting dishes that not only look, smell and taste good but that are easy to swallow even though they contain pieces of food. “Our ambition was to give our elders a renewed taste for life,” he said, adding “This project resonates with my passion, which is being a chef – a purveyor of happiness.”   

Fewer Purees, More Satisfaction 

The project team conducted research in six nursing homes in France. After one year, the number of blended meals had dropped by 76% and residents’ satisfaction had increased by 12%. Harmonie led to 42% fewer cases of dehydration, lowered the prevalence of malnutrition and, perhaps not surprisingly, prompted seniors to eat more. 

Harmonie benefits other stakeholders as well, including residents, caregivers and nursing home directors. Cooks and kitchen staff report they enjoy cooking more and feel a genuine sense of satisfaction knowing their work makes a difference in the lives of seniors.