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Making the Most of Family Dinners, at Home or Away (U.S.)

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Will the Sunday family dinner be at home? Or is the cook calling for a family gathering at a local restaurant? Either place requires a bit of forethought.

Menu is important regardless of location. Will dinner include items that might appeal to all generations:  from toddlers to grandparents and even great-grandparents? Does anyone in your group have any food allergies or other food intolerances? Ability to chew and swallow could impact many older adults as well.

Time of day might be important as some seniors need to eat early so they can coordinate mealtimes with medications, or so they can call it a night early.

Finally, consider seating guests closest to individuals who can make the most of dinnertime conversations, and avoid seating people together who might clash.

A family dinner out could require even more research. In addition to the tips above, consider the following:

  • Before selecting a restaurant, scope out the accessibility of the establishment. Just because a restaurant is handicap accessible doesn’t mean it will be easy for an older adult to navigate. If a senior has trouble walking, check out the number of steps required from the front door to the table where dinner is served. Will the space accommodate a wheelchair or walker if needed?
  • If you have a large group, consider scheduling dinner at a restaurant with a meeting room. A quiet room also will be more conducive to seniors with hearing problems or dementia.
  • Review the menu beforehand. (Most restaurants have online menus.) Consider not just the food choices, but also the cost and who will be paying for dinner. If family members cannot afford the restaurant, and you expect them to pay, they might decline your invitation.
  • Some restaurants could limit your ability to socialize. If that’s the case, and you want the evening to continue, consider scheduling dessert at someone’s home.

Remember, if you need Sunday night dinner help, contact your local Home Instead® office. To take the Sunday Dinner PledgeSM, go to

Last revised: May 5, 2015

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