By Lise Boullard
Moving into an independent or assisted living complex doesn’t have to mean giving up the healthy, excellent meals that you’ve always enjoyed with your family. In fact, at Opal by Element’s intergenerational lifestyle community, locally sourced, scrumptious food is a way of life—one that’s meant to be enjoyed by older residents who will have the opportunity to continue living, and dining, alongside their adult children and grandchildren if they so chose.
With an internationally trained, visionary chef at the helm of the culinary program, Opal by Element will be committed to using sustainable and organic ingredients, including local seafood and produce, as often as possible, when serving Opal by Element’s intergenerational residents, who will range in age from children to grandparents.
The program will also engage residents, offering an opportunity for children, parents and grandparents to connect with one another and with their communities by growing and harvesting ingredients on the residence’s rooftop garden. Once harvested, Opal’s recreational staff will organize opportunities to sell the produce at a local farmer’s market (also an opportunity for them to connect with and contribute to their communities). “We are what we eat and we want to keep (the food culture) interesting because (living at Opal) is about wellness and quality of life,” says Candy Ho, Founding and Acting Director, and Vice President of Marketing and Corporate Relations of Element Lifestyle Retirement Inc.
Opal’s kitchen will have a live seafood plant and will source ingredients from local preferred suppliers as much as possible, explains Ho. “Every week there will be a new boutique menu featuring 10-12 items made using local and seasonal ingredients and it will rotate through for variety,” she explains. There will also be a prix fixed menu available which Ho sees as an interesting option for residents who want to reserve meals in advance for visiting family members. The clubhouse restaurant can flexibly cater to family and friends, while those with large groups including young children, can enjoy the residence’s private dining-and-living rooms without worrying about making children sit still and behave. The private rooms will even have children’s books and board games so that when adults are carried away in stimulating hours-long conversation, the kids can have a great time alongside… (Or, they can play or watch movies with other families’ children in designated, sound-proofed and safety-proofed spaces.)
One of Opal’s most exciting components, though, is the Open Display Kitchen, which has been created for the OPAL culinary team to demonstrate cooking techniques. Equipped with professional tools that residents may not have had at home, the kitchen will have everything required for pizza-, pasta- or sushi-making lessons. There will be vibrant culinary parties that family members of all ages can enjoy together.
With people from various cultural backgrounds showing interest in the development, Opal’s food program will also be a chance for older residents to share recipes with their neighbours. “A lot of elderly people have traditional family recipes they can share with each other and we can help publish them for the community,” says Ho.
Opal’s food program administrators will start drawing on residents’ input once the project is sold or rented out and chefs will start organizing focus groups as part of the kitchen’s menu development. From the people who’ve shown interest in the property so far, Ho expects the selections will reflect the diverse cultures of Vancouver’s landscape.