How Seniors Can Help with Thanksgiving Dinner

By Alyssa Ball

Holidays can cause a lot of stress for older adults and their families. Traditions can bring up poignant and painful memories. And having the family together can highlight declining health and loss of independence in senior loved ones. But seniors should never be left out of the holiday festivities.  

Even if mom can’t help out like she used to, there are many ways she can still contribute. Here’s how you can involve aging loved ones in Thanksgiving this year.

1. Picking the Thanksgiving Menu

Aging loved ones might not be able to make their favorite dishes anymore. However, they can help you build a menu to impress. After all, they do have a lot of experience with Thanksgiving meals, so they could have a list of standout recipes. Involve your loved one in everything from the turkey recipe to picking the Thanksgiving desserts.

Seniors may have special dietary restrictions to accommodate health problems. Or they might have trouble eating certain foods. Make sure you take these considerations into account when menu planning. If you need some ideas, here’s a list of healthy Thanksgiving dishes

2. Shopping for Ingredients

There will be lots of ingredients that you will need for a traditional Thanksgiving feast. Ask your loved one to help you put together your Thanksgiving shopping list and make sure you aren't forgetting anything. Invite your loved one to go to the store with you if they are able.

There are also inevitable last-minute trips to the store on Thanksgiving Day. You can take your loved one on those trips, so they feel like they are an important part of making the meal. They can help you manage your grocery list, find items in the store, and provide fun company while you shop.

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3. Helping with Meal Prep

If a senior can’t cook safely anymore, that doesn’t mean they can’t still contribute to a dish. Ask your aging loved one to help mash potatoes by hand, wash produce, dump pre-measured seasonings into a bowl. Many seniors can still help with safe and simple tasks.  

There are also a number of no-bake Thanksgiving sides that a senior can help put together. They might need a little help from you to prep foods, but they can mix up the ingredients so that delicious recipes are ready to serve at dinnertime.

4. Setting the Table

Invite your aging loved one to help set the table. If you are using glass dishes, you can set that out on the table first and then ask for help arranging the place settings. Often, the fancy dishes are up high and can be very heavy. But getting them out ahead of time, you can reduce the risk of a dangerous accident.

Your loved one can put their own spin on setting the table. They might remember the way that they used to fold cloth napkins or have a specific way to set the wine glasses. Plus, they get to take credit for how great it looks when everyone takes a seat. 

5. Decorating the House 

To help make the day feel more special, you can decorate your house with fall-themed decorations. While you might have some fall décor already out, try to leave some decorations for your loved ones.

Maybe they can add flowers to the table or arrange some pumpkins on the porch. They could even work on a craft, like making table setting cards. Decorating can help your aging loved one feel involved while also adding an extra magical touch to Thanksgiving Day. 

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6. Hosting the Party

While your mom or dad might not be able to be in the kitchen anymore, they can certainly host the party! Friends and family members will need some entertainment while dinner is finishing up. Put your loved one in charge of greeting guests as they arrive, taking their coats, showing people where appetizers are, making conversation, etc. 

If your loved one is wheelchair bound or immobile, you can help position them close to the front door to greet people as they arrive. Later, you can transition them to the head of the table.

7. Tasting Dishes

One of the most important tasks in the kitchen is taste testing to make sure the food is perfect! Do the mashed potatoes need more salt? Does the turkey taste moist and delicious?

Your loved one can help you taste test each dish to make sure the seasoning and texture is just right. This can help an aging senior feel more in control of the big Thanksgiving feast — even if they aren’t able to help cook as much as they would have liked.

8. Cutting Dessert

Do you have a special pumpkin pie or a delicious apple crumble? Whatever dessert might be, ask the senior in your life if they want to be in charge of cutting dessert. A simple pie cutter should do the trick for getting the pie to the dessert plates.

If your loved one isn't able to serve dessert, you could ask them to finish off the dessert plates with a dollop of whipped cream or a sprinkle of shaved chocolate.

While it may require some additional thought to include your aging loved ones this Thanksgiving, it's important! The loved ones in your life should always be included in as many family activities as possible. Thanksgiving is sure to be a memorable one when you let them help.

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Tags: Holidays