Whether it’s a weekly tradition to gather for a meal after church, before the big game or simply to spend time together, many families still cherish their Sunday gathering. And time-honored recipes prepared lovingly by grandparents can help connect the generations and give older adults greater self-esteem and value in their families and within the community. Recent studies have found that there are many benefits for older adults in participating in food-related activities.
Learning all the tricks of balancing flavors, shopping for the best produce or cuts of meat and patiently preparing traditional meals is a skill that, if passed on to the next generation, will provide a lasting legacy. But with the fast-paced society we live in, many elderly adults are feeling more isolated and start losing their sense of self as they become less independent. According to a recent McMaster Aging Portal blog, a review of studies that looked at the relationship between eating habits of older adults and maintaining their identity found that shopping and preparing traditional meals helped seniors stay socially engaged and had a positive effect on both ethnic and gender identities.
When seniors are removed from the pleasure of shopping for, preparing and sharing meals with loved ones, they miss out on a meaningful source of joy and happiness. Elderly adults who have recently lost a spouse may feel the void most keenly at mealtimes when they have only themselves for company. Many older adults who live alone lose interest in shopping, preparing meals and eating and as a result may not be getting nutritious meals regularly. Eating is usually a social activity and dining alone may be a painful reminder of changes associated with aging.
What can friends and family do to help? It could be as simple and bringing people back to the Sunday dinner table and inviting grandparents or other older adults in the family or the community to share a meal or help prepare a special dish. The activity of planning a meal, shopping and cooking for and with others can bring back a sense of well-being and identity for aging adults. And the grandkids will always remember fondly the special foods that could only be made with the lifetime of experience older adults can bring to the kitchen.
What on the menu at your house this Sunday?