6 Ways to Keep All Your Guests Happy
The more family and friends sitting around the table, the merrier the dinner party. But as your guest list grows, so does the probability of an elderly friend or family member attending. Here’s some ways to make sure everyone feels comfortable, included and welcome at your next gathering.
Part of the party
Since some elders might use canes, walkers or wheel chairs, find a place for them where they feel included in the mealtime, but don’t have to move out of the way for others. “You don’t want to shove grandma off to the side or scramble at the last minute to find a spot for her that works,” says Michelle Pollak, interior designer at La Petite Maison in Charleston, S.C. “Find a good place ahead of time so she isn’t embarrassed or feels like a burden.”
While islands are the place to dine for many families, Jamie Gibbs, owner of Jamie Gibbs Associates in Indianapolis, says a table is necessary when hosting people of all ages. “A 30-inch high table is a good height for most people, including seniors, since they won’t have to reach up to access their food,” he says. A round table with pedestals is even better. “The fewer corners and legs, the less chance for a senior to run into it or trip,” Gibbs adds.
If your dinning or kitchen table isn’t ideal, Pollack suggests a folding table. “Most are the right height, and you can find reasonable yet elegant ones made of pretty wood with decorative designs,” she says. “Plus, if you have to move the party to a more conducive part of the house to accommodate an elder, they are easy to set up.”
Don’t forget comfortable chairs, Gibbs says. “A standard dining room chair is 18 inches off the floor, which should be a good height for most seniors,” he says. “And chairs with arms and firm cushions are much easier to get out of.”
Placing the right setting
Since getting older comes with a variety of ailments, such as decreased vision and joint and muscle issues, Kati Neville, co-author of “Fix, Freeze, Feast: The Delicious, Money-Saving Way to Feed Your Family” (Storey Publishing, 2010), says to think about the kind of dinnerware and flatware you use. “You might not want to put out your best china or crystal glasses, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use sturdy plastic plates and cups that resemble glass with pretty etching or designs,” she says. “Even if you don’t mind your nice dinnerware breaking, it might be embarrassing for an elderly person to be the cause of that.”
Light colored dishes are another great option according to Gibbs. “Many people have dark colored tables,” he says. “When someone has a vision impairment, he might not be able to define the edge of a dark plate against a dark table, and he might have difficulty picking up his food.”
As far as flatware, Neville says to stick with lighter utensils when seniors are around.
Easy on the flair
Decorations add style and charm to any occasion, but Neville says to keep in mind that seniors who’ve had surgery or are dealing with certain conditions might be sensitive to things like flowers, scented candles or potpourri. “Festive silk flower arrangements and unscented decorative items are sold just about anywhere.”
Light, light and more light
Incorporating different lighting levels where you’re dining can accommodate different ages, Pollack says. “If you’re using dimmed lights during the meal to create a certain ambiance, also put a few table lamps on nearby side tables or buffets to make it easier for the elderly if they need to get up,” she says.
When deciding what to serve, Neville says to consider dietary restrictions of the elderly. “Reactions to dairy products or additives can be connected to medical conditions or medications, so check ahead,” she says. And softer items might be the safest way to go. “Think about what would be easiest to chew. Something like a veggie tray might not be something they can enjoy.”