And the best shrimp peeler is…

Food entertainment is becoming “center of the plate” for many senior living communities. From exhibition culinary displays to healthy eating advice to food demonstrations featuring guest chefs, residents these days are cooking and laughing together as they learn more about food.

A recent example of this trend occurred at Phoebe Terrace Retirement Community of Allentown, Pennsylvania. Phoebe residents participated in a “Gone Fishing” event that celebrated the opening of fishing season. Hosted by Cura Hospitality, a food service management company that specializes in senior living and acute care headquartered in Pennsylvania; and representatives from Adelphia Seafood, a regional fish and seafood wholesaler of Reading, Pennsylvania, the event provided education on how to select fresh, quality seafood. Also featured were various seafood cuts, terminology, and cooking techniques to help residents prepare a delicious and healthy meal in their apartments.

Joel Umberger of Adelphia opened the event by demonstrating how to clean and fillet a 12-pound, farm-raised salmon from Canada and a farm-raised Tilapia while explaining the food safety steps he takes to evaluate fish for quality and shelf life. Residents also learned about seafood sustainability and, by following Seafood Watch guidelines, how the food industry is working to preserve the seas.

Joel Umberger from Adelphia Seafood demonstrates how to bone a fish for Phoebe Terrace residents.

But it was the resident shrimp peeling contest that stole the show as four residents competed for top “peeler.” Donning their chef whites, residents Helen Leming, Adele Szymanski, Leah Verri, and Margaret Teitsworth raced to peel 15 shrimp each. Verri, who will be 87 in June, triumphed.

Originally from New Jersey, Verri said she enjoyed this and other food events that her community offers.

Seafood Watch informational video.

“I enjoy learning more about what goes on behind the scenes. I especially liked watching Mr. Umberger bone the fish—that was terrific,” Verri said.

And what was her grand prize for winning? More shrimp to eat, of course.

Cura sous chef Darius Murden grilled tilapia fingers for residents to sample and was followed by an all-you-can-eat clam bake served with frosty mugs of beer to celebrate the opening of trout season. When asked if she stayed for the clam bake, Verri replied, “Absolutely, clams are my favorite!”

Phoebe Terrace residents, engaged in shrimp peeling, from left to right: Helen Leming, Margaret Teitsworth, and contest champion Leah Verri.

“Our goal is to create opportunities for residents that are more conducive to socialization,” said Kim Wilson, Cura director of dining services. “The residents love to participate in activities that focus on food. It’s a way for them to learn something new while enjoying some time with friends and family, and a delicious meal.”

At another food event, residents were chefs for the day during Phoebe’s first Italian cooking demonstration where they worked side by side with Cura chefs tossing pizza dough and preparing calzones and Focaccia breads from scratch for the rest of the community to enjoy.

As the long-term care field continues to make changes in anticipation of aging baby boomers, it’s important to note that all people not only enjoy food events—they view them as prized activities.

Grace Zarnas-Hoyer is president of Hoyer & Associates Public Relations. Contact Zarnas-Hoyer at

Topics: Activities , Articles