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Cooking Class for Seniors


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I credit my mother for giving me the the foundations as a home cook. But as she developed alzheimers and my (rather traditional) dad started taking over the cooking duties I began to become appalled (No, father, we are NOT putting the turkey into the microwave)

Recently we've gone through the whole Assisted Living/Nursing Home thing and while this may be beyond the scope of a Senior Center, I think some observations may have some value for teaching even the younger seniors.

Be prepared to adapt quickly. The ability of seniors varies wildly. Look for the one(s) that can pick up some slack from the others. One or two might be able to chop onions for the entire group. Some others should not even be given a knife.

Frugality will play well with this generation. In addition to their place in (depression era) history, they're all (well, most of them) stressing about their money holding out for longer than they do.

Don't try to challenge their tastes. Generally speaking, they want comfort food. They don't want fancy. They want simple, traditional fare. The odd Amuse might be well received, but that's not what they're looking to cook.

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I have been teaching community cooking workshops, and supervising senior volunteers for a few years now. Something I have noticed is that the senior women are not interested in "learning how to cook" ANYthing! That is to say, they are not interesting in product-specific lessons. Especially if they have to pay :)

One of the comments I have heard frequently is "why would anyone pay to have a lesson to cook xyx? By this age we already know what to do!" Of course, I chuckle a little inside when I hear that.

However, most of the seniors are interested in learning what to do with some of the "new" vegetables which have appeared in the shops. Also, they like to re-learn how to cook for one or two, and also how to store and reheat single servings. There are several groups in our community who gather to cook together, and to learn about each other's favorite foods. They share a meal or snack at the end of the session, and take home something for later. The take-home portion plays a role in ensuring that seniors maintain healthy diets.

Another popular workshop topic has been herbs, both uses and cultivation.

But yes, some people should not have knives...

Karen Dar Woon

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Such good ideas you have already received.

I also cook occasionally for my 81 year old mother, and turn out food for the odd party for Mum and her friends. In my experience, the women tend to be much more adventurous than the men. It is like they have been turned loose from having to produce only what their (mostly deceased) husbands insisted on. So, if it's going to be mainly men, I suspect some may want to learn to cook what their wives used to make them.

Mum always uses a timer these days (and not just for cooking). She clips it to herself so she can go about doing other things and not worry about forgetting. I do too, and I'm (only) 56.

It has already been mentioned that as we age, our taste buds are failing, along with everything else. I don't think I read anything about the sense of smell, however. Anything that creates more aroma in a dish is often appreciated by the elderly. They actually sell aroma drops to get reluctant eaters (many chemotherapy patients) interested in their food.

Browning foods is an easy way to get the saliva flowing (many elderly have trouble with dry mouths). The smell of onions cooking seems to get everyone interested.

While caramelised onions may take a fair while to make, they do freeze well in tiny packets to be used for a quick start to a dish. Most elderly (here at least) do not have a deep freeze, so only small, useful things for what little fridge freezer space they have. If they like mushrooms, they are also a product that gets regular markdown and with the moisture cooked out of them will take up little space and freeze fine.

I look forward to hearing how the classes go.


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When I do my cooking class at our Assisted Living center, I always incorporate all the senses. Different colors, tastes, textures, sizes and shapes. I find that older adults have troubles associating /recognizing foods. We often do a blindfold test and have them identify foods by taste and texture or smell. This helps them remember and have fun at the same time.

Also, we enjoy combining different food flavors together. Like blueberries and cinnamon or mango with raspberries.

hope this helps :rolleyes:

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