Friends and family enjoying a big family meal together is a traditional and beloved holiday scene. Favorite foods are made, tasty beverages are served and general merriness abounds. The same scene can become a stressful and potentially dangerous time when elderly guests’ needs are not taken into consideration. Paying attention to a few simple details while planning your holiday meal will go a long way in making the holiday meal a favorite meal every year.
Tips for Holiday Meals with Seniors
Tip One: Create a seating plan that considers your elderly guests’ comfort.
Does the senior in your life have a walker or wheel chair? Do they have difficulty eating with heavy silverware or drinking from heavy glassware? Is there ample space for your guest to get in and out of their chair? These are all questions that should be considered when planning your seating arrangements for your holiday meal.
Things to consider for creating a comfortable meal experience for your senior guests:
- Space- Try to seat your guest in a space with ample room to oblige needs to get up and out of chairs. Think about whether you’ll need to accommodate a wheelchair, walker or cane at the table.
- Proximity to Facilities – Seniors may have difficulty walking or may need to visit the restroom more often than some of the younger dinner guests. Seat your guests in a space that is as close to restrooms as possible.
- Hearing Issues– Some seniors have hearing issues and sitting in the middle of a large, loud crowd of people can be confusing and frustrating to them. It can also be difficult for seniors with hearing issues to sit too far away to hear the host speaking. Try seating guests with hearing issues near the host, and surrounding them with some of your quieter guests.
- Dinnerware – Often the holidays bring out the cherished china, silverware and glassware to set a beautiful table. Think about whether or not the weight of dinnerware will make eating more difficult for your elderly guests. Consider having alternative options for guests that prefer them or switching the tableware for the entire table to something that is a little easier for all guests to enjoy.
- Plated, Family Style or Buffet Meals– When planning the style of the meal that you’ll be serving- a seated meal served family style, plated or buffet style- consider how your elderly guests will get their dinner. For a family style meal, consider placing someone near a senior to assist in serving family style meals to guests that may not be able to lift and pass large serving platters. For buffet style meals you may wish to place someone in charge of helping elderly guests through the buffet line. Plated meals will come straight to your guest’s place setting, but require extra hands on deck to get the meal to the table.
Tip Two: Consider senior guests diets when planning your holiday meal.
Spiral ham, mashed potatoes, brown gravy, green bean casserole, sweet potato pie, pumpkin pie… many holiday food meals are full of delicious, but rich ingredients. Diets and tastes may change as people age for health reasons, medications or various sensitivities. Check in with your loved ones and guests for any food aversions or sensitivity needs.
Things to consider when creating a holiday menu plan with elderly guests:
- Sodium- Many seniors require low-sodium diets. Consider leaving out the salt in some dishes and having salt on the table for guests to season their meal instead.
- Sugar- Guests with diabetes will not be able to enjoy the sugar laden desserts or even some savory dishes that include sugar. Include a sugar-free treat for guests that cannot partake and savory options that do not have added sugars.
- Alcohol Consumption- Drinking of alcoholic beverages may have adverse side-effects with certain medications. Have plenty of non-alcoholic beverages on hand for guests to enjoy. Consider moderation when serving alcohol to guests.
- Allergies/Dislikes- As with any dinner party it is important to consider the allergies and food aversions of your guests. Be considerate with your menu planning and try to accommodate as much as possible. One way to inform your guests of ingredients is to include a printed menu for seated meals or food labels for buffets.
Tip Three: Pay attention to health considerations of elderly guests during busy holiday get-togethers.
In the hustle and bustle of getting the family together for a big holiday meal it is easy to forget to take medications on time, get enough rest or to drink enough liquids to stay hydrated. Be an advocate for the elderly at your events by making sure that their health needs are being attended to.
Things to consider for a safe and healthy holiday event for your senior guests:
- Medications– Be aware of medications of elderly guests. Your guests may need to take certain medications at certain times, with or without food. Medications may also make your guests hungry, light headed, or thirsty. Have snacks on hand and beverages accessible for guests who need to manage their health and medications.
- Hydration- It is easy to forget to drink water while enjoying a busy day of holiday celebrations. Hydration is incredibly important to your senior guests, keep water glasses full.
- Rest- Opportunities for your elderly guests to rest may be needed in fun-filled days. If possible, have a space that your guests may feel comfortable to go and relax for some time if needed.
Thinking about your elderly guests comfort, dietary needs and health considerations when planning your holiday get-togethers is not only a way to ensure a good time is had by all, but also a way of showing your senior guests that you care about their well-being and happiness.
Please note that the above tips are intended to be suggestions for creating a happy and safer holiday meal experience. It is not intended as medical advice. A health professional should be consulted for all senior health concerns.