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Easy Ways to Pull Off Sunday Dinners as a Family

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Sunday dinner used to be a time when the entire family—and sometimes the extended family—gathered to talk, to laugh and to share the family lore and the day-to-day details of each others’ lives. Sometimes the “little things” about dining together—the emotional connection and casual conversation—are more important than the meal itself.

Why Intergenerational Dining?

The hectic pace of life today may make it feel impossible to bring the family together for dinner. But sharing meals together can benefit all generations within a family. Children get to hear their family’s oral history directly from the older generations, and seniors enjoy the companionship, which may lead to real health benefits, such as improved nutrition.

Home Instead, Inc., franchisor of the Home Instead® network, recently conducted research among North Americans with seniors living nearby. The Sunday Dinner Pledge survey revealed:

• 61% believe their senior relatives eat better when they dine with other family members
• 92% feel eating with multigenerational family members is a good way to reconnect
• 87% believe sharing sit-down meals with senior relatives help their loved one deal with loneliness

Start with a Simple Commitment

As a busy caregiver, you might be thinking, “where am I going to find time to plan a big family dinner?” If you feel this way, you’re not alone.

While nearly 90 percent of respondents to the Sunday Dinner Pledge survey said they would like to share sit-down dinners with their senior loved ones once a month, about half of them said conflicting schedules and lack of time prevented them from doing this. Can you relate?

Consider this: when you prioritize something in your life, you tend to find the time to get it done. And that can include regular meals with your senior loved one.

To help make family mealtime a priority in your life, sign the Sunday Dinner PledgeSM . When you do, you not only will feel committed to making family dinners happen regularly, but the Home Instead Foundation® will donate $1 for each pledge (up to a total of $20,000 in the U.S.) to the Meals on Wheels America program.

Create an Easy Menu Plan

To make it more feasible to plan and cook an intergenerational meal on a regular basis, start by choosing an easy menu plan. This may include favorite family recipes that can be made ahead of time, or new recipes with a limited ingredient list.

If you need recipe ideas that will please all of your family members, try the Sunday Dinner Planner. In three quick steps, you can choose a main ingredient, review a selection of recipes and add one to your planner. Then you can get the planner emailed to you for printing and reference.

Use Activities to Foster Interactions

Once you get into the Sunday dinner routine, you may find conversation doesn’t flow as easily as it did in the beginning. Everyone runs out of interesting family news from time to time. When this happens, you can refer to this list of conversation starters for the dinner table, or plan an after-dinner activity to engage the whole family.

The Sunday Dinner Planner includes suggestions like family movie night and hobbies. You can add these to your planner in the same way you added recipes.

Involve Senior Loved Ones in Meal Planning

And speaking of activities, be sure to include your senior loved ones in the planning and meal preparations as much as possible. They may enjoy the renewed sense of purpose they get from participating as much as the meal itself.

In advance of the meal, consult your senior family member about food preferences. Does she have a particular recipe she’d like you to cook? Would she like to assemble and bring a dish of her own? When you empower your senior loved one to contribute, you give her a real sense of satisfaction.

Dine Together on Sunday—or Any Day

By taking the Sunday Dinner Pledge, you’re committing to sharing a monthly meal with your senior loved ones. You don’t have to do it on Sundays. Pick a day that works well for your schedule.

No matter which day you choose to dine with your senior family member, your whole family will benefit from this sociable interaction.

After all, who better to describe the distinctive smell of trout cooking over a smoky campfire than Grandpa himself?

For more family meal planning resources, check out the Sunday Dinner Pledge program on

Last revised: June 2, 2015

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Thoughts and stories from others
  1. June 11, 2015 at 1:51 pm | Posted by Kathleen

    Mom(86) lives with my husband and myself. She loves our Sunday dinners with my children their husbands and her 5 great grandchildren.. The little ones just love her. The three of us eat together every night, watch Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy but Sunday .... Something special. Lots of people lots of noise and lots of chaos! It's good for her and all of us.


    • June 12, 2015 at 9:07 am | Posted by Cat Koehler

      My grandmother use to say that lots of noise meant a close family! It sounds like it's the same at your house.


  2. June 10, 2015 at 7:54 pm | Posted by Jamie Wright

    I am a "senior citizen" with no relatives living nearby. This doesn't bother me because I have wonderful neighbors who include me in their family gatherings. My husband and I were considered a third set of grandparents in their families. This closeness has been even more helpful since my husband died. These "second" families are just as dear and close to me as my blood relatives ever were.


    • June 11, 2015 at 7:37 am | Posted by Cat Koehler

      Isn't it great when friends become family?!?! I am so glad you have them (and they have you).


  3. June 10, 2015 at 12:40 pm | Posted by kathy Tillia

    Love being a caregiver to so many and also cooking there favorite things


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