by Sharon Chin and Molly McCrea

LIVERMORE (KPIX) — The “Age Wave” has arrived.

Last year, the number of Americans age 65 and older surpassed 50 million for the first time. Older adults are at particularly high risk for malnutrition.

Inside the Watermark at Rosewood Gardens, a retirement community in Livermore, invited guests, residents and family all sits down to a meal. First, however, the staff collects all the silverware from the beautifully-set tables. Their instructions: forget knives and forks — all you need are your fingers; today’s meal should be eaten with your hands.

The idea is to take traditional menu items and transform them into nutrition-packed, easy-to-handle bites.

The experience is known as “thrive dining” and it’s designed to appeal to those with cognitive, neuromuscular or chewing disorders.

“We developed it to aid our residents who can no longer use utensils, can no longer remember, see well, (who) have impairments,” explained executive director Nancy Harrison.

“Oh it’s pretty wild! I liked it,” exclaimed guest Lucio DiMauro.

“I like the fact that they can eat with their hands. And it’s very tasty,” said Keith Clendenen, whose mother has diabetes and Alzheimer’s Disease and lives at Watermark.

“Mmm, very good,” said Marylee Walker, as she took a bite.

Here, a chef salad is turned into salad balls, packed with egg and fresh vegetables.

Beef Wellington with all the fixings becomes fancy finger food with dipping sauce. The panko-crusted cod is broken into gourmet morsels.

Thrive Dining Examples

Thrive Dining: (top left) a Chef’s salad has been “morselized” into finger-friendly plate. Below, panko-crusted cod (left) transformed into cod balls. (CBS)

“I thought it was delicious, very good,” said resident Audree Heaton. Heaton suffers from arthritis and her daughter Debbie Krukov was pleased that her mom’s meal was so easy to pick up and eat.

“If you’re chasing something around the plate, you’re going to become disinterested, so having nutrition upfront is a benefit,” Krukov said.

Experts warn malnutrition is a growing public health issue as our population ages. Each year billions of dollars are spent in additional health care costs for older adults who are not getting proper nutrition.

One in four seniors is poorly nourished and Carol Blackwell, a registered nurse, told KPIX what she sees among the elderly.

“We have declined appetite or actually no appetite at all. They will actually decrease their weight sooner or later,” said Blackwell.

Chronic conditions such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ALS, diabetes, depression and cancer can all make eating difficult or painful.

Coming up with nutritious dining options can make a huge difference whether you live in a retirement community or at home and the overwhelming majority of Americans say they hope to remain in their homes as they grow older.

Thrive Dining may give loved ones an idea to help the older generation maintain dignity and independence and to rediscover the joy of eating and socializing.

Nutritionists have come up with balanced recipes, ingredients are fresh, and the choices are full of variety — no frozen chicken nuggets or fish sticks here.

The Watermark at Rosewood Gardens has worked on implementing the idea for six months and introduced it recently to residents.

“Our main goal: to make sure everybody eats, stays healthy and lives longer,” said chef Yamil Abed.

Thrive dining begins the meal with warm, moist towels scented with lavender to wash the hands, followed by a citrus sorbet to whet the appetite. Then the feast is served and it’s one bite at a time.

Two other Watermark facilities in the Bay Area — one in Emeryville and one in Oakland — have already implemented “Thrive Dining.” All three locations have limited-schedule tasting and demonstration events for the public.

THRIVE DINING PUBLIC TASTINGS AT THE WATERMARK

Bayside Park, Emeryville
Please RSVP (510) 594-8800
http://baysidepark.watermarkcommunities.com
Weekdays 12:30 pm to 1:30 pm by RSVP

Lakeside Park Oakland
Please RSVP (510) 230-0339
http://lakesidepark.watermarkcommunities.com
Weekdays 12:30 pm to 1:30 pm by RSVP

Livermore:
The Watermark at Rosewood Gardens
Please RSVP (925) 443-7200
http://rosewoodgardens.watermarkcommunities.com
Weekdays 12:30 pm to 1:30 pm by RSVP
Thursdays, July 27 and Aug. 31, 12:30 pm to 1:30 pm by RSVP

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