The Gatesworth co-owner David Smith and OASIS founder Marylen Mann 

When Frances Vande Kerk was a little girl, her mother specialized in making comfort food: pot roast, chicken fricassee and especially chicken and dumplings, a dish that persists in her mind today. As she looks back happily on those food memories, the four-year resident of The Gatesworth knows that chef Brian Hardy is more than willing to recreate the recipe for her. “If you’re going to live in a place that is as great as The Gatesworth, you really need to have a top-notch chef in charge of the food because it’s so important to the residents.”

The importance of food and recollections will be celebrated Oct. 20 and Nov. 10 , when The Gatesworth hosts Menus and Memories, an OASIS luncheon event that is part of the organization’s ‘Founder’s Series.’ With OASIS marking its 30th anniversary in 2012, and Gatesworth nearing its 25th year, the well-established institutions make an appropriate pairing as they share the same vision for seniors in St. Louis. “We both provide opportunities for people to enhance the quality of their lives,” says OASIS founder Marylen Mann. “This is a time of life where you can concentrate on yourself and expand your world, rather than having it contract.”

Both organizations encourage active living for seniors with their programs and activities—the variety of which offers options for any interest. In addition, The Gatesworth and OASIS recognize the importance of building legacies to leave behind. “It’s the idea of who I am and what do I want to leave for future generations—whether it’s my life story, or the things I’ve learned that I want to pass along,” Mann explains.

The idea of such bequests was promoted by another recent Founder’s Series event at The Gatesworth, Creating a Legacy, which included videographers to help participants record individual messages. In the same way, part of leaving a legacy involves consideration of your personal experiences—a concept that will be explored during Menus and Memories. Hardy, a St. Louis native and Culinary Institute of America graduate, will prepare and discuss a meal that represents his food memories and what guided him to being a chef. “It’s the one thing I felt defined me as an individual. Growing up in a multiple-child family, you look to distinguish yourself, and that’s what I was good at,” he says.

At The Gatesworth, where Hardy has worked since 2001, he uses that passion to create dishes that satisfy residents’ wishes, as well as evoke their own memories. “If someone brings me a recipe and says, I used to cook these meatballs when I was young, I’m happy to recreate that because I like to cook what people enjoy,” he notes. “It’s almost like you’re cooking a family dinner every night here.”

The effort does not go unnoticed by the residents. “I think Brian is one of the most accommodating chefs I’ve ever met,” Vande Kerk says. “Many people who live here have traveled a great deal over their lifetimes and have had great food prepared by great chefs around the world, so being able to get that quality here is very important.”

The Menus and Memories event is just a glimpse into the offerings that The Gatesworth and OASIS make available to seniors to promote healthy and happy aging. As the institutions look to the future, they will continue to help seniors thrive, Mann says. “We want to give people the opportunity to make meaningful contributions to the community and get involved, whether it’s offering some good food and a story about a meal, or helping them tell their story for future generations.”

Cover Box: The OASIS Menus and Memories event at The Gatesworth takes place Oct. 20 and Nov. 10, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Pictured on the cover: Gatesworth resident Frances Vande Kerk and chef Brian Hardy. For more information, call The Gatesworth at 993-0111 or call OASIS at 539-4556.

More Retirement Lifestyle articles.