As services for seniors continue to grow, one area that is sometimes overlooked has been that of food delivery – and while many restaurants offer that service, few do so specifically with seniors in mind.
Working to alleviate that issue is the team behind Senior Bistro, a food delivery service created with seniors’ nutritional needs in mind.
That distinction comes courtesy of its owners, Brian McWilliams and Jane and Chris Merritt – all of whom have medical backgrounds – and professional chef Lori Thomas. As the first anniversary of their business nears in July, they hope their distinctive service remains a testament to their qualifications.
“What makes us different is that we cater to seniors specifically,” Jane Merritt said. “Anyone can receive our meals, but we try to keep our meals heart healthy while being mindful of any blood or health problems, so the food is more suited for them.”
Merritt said she and her husband, both registered nurses, had been working in health care for years and recognized a lack of food-delivery options for seniors.
“We both felt there was a need and that purpose just sort of overcame my husband,” Merritt said. “In that same time, I developed an extreme love of food and cooking. We both wanted to have more of a purpose and give back to the community and decided to contribute to helping seniors.”
And as a gerontology-certified nurse with more than 17 years of experience in health care, Merritt was qualified to help.
Senior Bistro is distinguished by its special focus on the nutritional needs of the seniors they service through complimentary “spot checks,” wherein each client’s needs are assessed to determine cognitive orientation, risk of injury and nutritional needs and concerns. The business doubles as an outreach to put clients and their families in touch with the resources they need to help them maintain independence in their homes.
“A lot of our seniors are homebound and don’t have a lot of choices in food,” Merritt said. “So our homebound seniors have been able to receive meals they enjoy the taste of and that are healthy. We’re also able to refer our seniors to resources for things like mental health counseling and private-duty home health should they need it.”
In many cases, she added, accessibility to food can be the one thing that allows a client to stay in their home.
“For our customers in particular, it’s necessary to help them age in place,” Merritt said. “And there’s a surprising amount of people who are extremely homebound and struggle to get food into their homes.”
Merritt said in the future they would like to expand the service as demand grows, focusing first on the Greater Jacksonville area and moving to outlying counties next. Eventually, they hope to take the service to a national level.
But for now, the team is happy to make a difference where they are.
“We really hope that seniors enjoy a service that helps meet their needs because we want them to age happily in place,” she said. “So many seniors dread the thought of having to give up their homes and want to be able to stay where they are. We just hope we’re able to help them do that with Senior Bistro.”