One doesn't live to eat, but eats to live.

Norman Rockwell

“Freedom from Want” Norman Rockwell’s 1943 painting is the Iconic American Dinner with Family centered around an abundance of food in a typical American dining room with smiles, engagement and life.

For most seniors this is what dinner is supposed to be. Moving to assisted living changes everything with family missing & being replaced by strangers, the dining room turned into the restaurant and food that is meant for nourishment versus to be enjoyed.

By definition Food means a substance that can be ingested in order to maintain life and grow. By this definition this could be anything that helps keep you alive but adds no value to your life.

Eating by definition means to take into the body by mouth or absorption. The act of eating in itself does not offer pleasure, connection or satisfaction.

In order to understand the smiles in the Norman Rockwell painting you need to feel the warmth of the setting, hear the conversations and smell the turkey and pie. “Freedom from Want” the title of the painting is what senior living supply’s at a minimum but I believe the title misleads us into thinking that having food equates to the happiness in the painting. I propose that the Italians understand the concept better and we would be wise to follow their lead.

Italian Family

There are several Italian sayings that apply to the idea of eating and happiness:

Chi mangia e non invita, possa strozzarsi con ogni mollica. (He who eats alone and invites no one, will choke with every crumb.)

Chi mangia solo crepa solo. (He who eats alone dies alone.)

But the best is:

Non si vive per mangiare ma si mangia per vivere.Italian Meal
One doesn't live to eat, but eats to live.

The play on words is critical. It is about living life to its fullest not sustaining oneself.

Connection is critical to the Italian meal. If you happen to be sitting alone at a table in Italy it won’t be too long before you are asked to join another table.

While eating is seen differently in most cultures, everyone agrees when you break bread with others it creates a bond that is otherwise difficult to create.

Couple these facts with the understanding that today’s seniors were not part of the fast food generation. Per Harvard Magazine May-June 2013 The Way We Eat Now by Craig Lambert “The 1950s were also an era in which the kitchen—not the television room—was the heart of the home.”

Careful consideration needs to be taken in providing multiple dining options as the Breakfast nook or table was different for most seniors than the dinner table. Lunch could mean either place depending on the formality and who was invited. Yet most senior living still offers one space for dining that looks more like a restaurant than a home.

Couple the change in environment for meals with the change in menu per environment and add fantastic food that you would want to eat at daily and we transform “Freedom from want” into “One doesn't live to eat, but eats to live.”