Having the elderly over for a meal is such a blessing! I can not tell you how it warms my heart to think of the seniors that have graced our table over the years. Some have already gone to be with the Lord, so it is so special to know that we had them over and enjoyed them while they were on earth.
Really, everyone is special, but there is something unique about those who have walked with the Lord through the trials of this life and are at that beautiful, sunset age of life.
So, are there any special concerns for entertaining the elderly?
1) SAFETY: If there was ever a motivation to get the place clear of clutter, it would be now. It is so hard for the elderly the navigate between toys and friendly kid stuff all over. What we might see as a nuisance could be a safety hazard for them. They often have a hard time seeing, walking, or hearing. The problem is that often they won't even tell you that they can't see or hear or get through the hall in order to not seem "troublesome". So, it is important to watch them carefully to see if they are struggling. Make sure there is a clear path to the bathroom also.
2)SEATING: (for the non-eating part of the visit) I used to think that the elderly person would like the nice soft, cushy chair to sit in. Most often, they really prefer a hard back chair. Getting up and out of chairs can be very difficult, so the less they "sag" into the chair, the better. If they are at your home for an extended period of time, they may prefer a recliner to "rest" in, but not usually if they have to stay alert and make conversation!
3) SEATING: (for the eating) Try to have them sit (in a hard-backed chair, not a bench) in an easily accessible place. If you have a small dining area, you may want to consider moving a table to the living room.
4) EATING: It's just best to ask them what they are able to eat and not eat. If they have dentures, it may be hard to eat certain foods like corn on the cob. Most elderly people are very gracious and willing to eat whatever you serve, but it is nice to ask for preferences. They tend not to like overly spicy foods, unless they were former missionaries or something! Our generation is far more accustomed to the Mexican influence than the older generation.
5) OTHER CONCERNS: Also, watch for signs of choking when eating. My grandpa was famous for choking on his food, and others may be prone to this as well. It may overkill to suggest getting CPR certified, but I after I finished my training, I was well aware that I may some day have to use this in my own home some day--especially with all of the guests we have.
6) CONVERSATION: If you have godly, gracious elderly people over, they may be so intent to ask you so many questions that you may forget to ask them a few also! If you do get the opportunity, ask them about their lives, their children, their work, their loves and passions. Ask them how they got through hard times. Ask them what kept their faith strong through the years. Ask them if they have any advice for young families trying to raise children in this day and age..
7)NOISE LEVEL: We forget how quiet their homes are, or more specifically how LOUD ours are! If your guests have hearing problems or are wearing hearing aids, the sensory overload of the home can be overwhelming. Other than putting a muzzle on the kids, dogs, instruments and chaos, it may be good to practice a few quiet sessions.
Some wonderful experiences with an elderly couple...
When we first moved to Rockford, I was so drawn to Ben and Fran Larsen. They both just radiated with love for the Lord Jesus. We had only been in our home a week or so, so we had to "clear a path" to have them over for a meal. I remember wanting to honor the elderly, so we chose them to be the first guests in our home.
Fran was the perfect example of a godly older woman. She expected nothing, appreciated everything and was content and sensible about life. Her husband, Ben, was failing in health but she stood by his side, taking care of his every need. Ben went to be with the Lord a few years ago. Prior to this, they both moved to the Grand Rapids area to be near their children. I only had a short window of time with them, but I would have never gotten to know them if it hadn't been for hospitality.
Fran would say, "It's so nice to see young families serving the Lord" and "You (me) remind me of my mother." (what a huge compliment!) I've had more than one elderly woman tell me that I reminded them of their mother. (Maybe it's the apron I wear!) Either way, there's so much blessing in having the elderly over, that I hope you'll take the risk!
Other posts in the hospitality series:
Hospitality:serving a meal part 1