Food is used by people in all countries and cultures as a way to celebrate, grieve, and experience life together. Our meals provide the nutrients and energy we need to live a healthy life, but it also provides us with opportunities to connect and socialize. When we share a meal with our loved ones, it creates deeper and more meaningful interactions. Research conducted by the University of Oxford shows that people who eat with others are more equipped to handle social and emotional settings and are more likely to feel better about themselves.
Sharing meals and bonding over food is especially important as we get older. Seniors are more at risk of loneliness and isolation which can lead to depression, anxiety, and the onset of chronic health conditions. As we age, our social circles tend to shrink and we may find ourselves spending more time alone. This can be especially true for seniors who may have lost their spouse or close friends. However, dining together can be an excellent way for seniors to stay connected and engage with others.
Benefits of Sharing Meals with Seniors
Mealtimes can become challenging for older adults, especially for those who live alone or far away from family members. However, the simple act of sharing a meal with others can improve our physical and emotional well-being in several different ways. Research shows that those who eat socially more often feel happier and are more satisfied with life, more trusting of others, and more engaged with their local communities. While it may seem trivial, sharing a meal with others can improve our overall well-being:
Promotes healthy eating
As we age, our nutritional needs change and it can be difficult to maintain a healthy diet. Some seniors may experience shifts in their appetite and find it difficult to eat at mealtimes. However, dining with others can encourage seniors to eat a more balanced and nutritious meal. In addition, seniors who eat together are more likely to try new foods and recipes, which can help keep their diet varied and interesting.
Opportunity to connect with others
Maintaining social connections can help seniors feel more connected and less isolated, especially those who live alone. Sharing a meal with family and friends provides older adults with companionship and an opportunity to bond over shared experiences.
Improve physical health
Eating with others can help seniors improve their nutritional intake. Some research suggests that those who share meals with others take longer to dine and consume more nutritionally dense foods than those who do not. These are important factors when it comes to living a long, healthy, and independent life.
Create social connections
One of the most significant benefits of seniors dining together is socialization. Those who eat alone may be challenged by the task of grocery shopping, preparing and cooking meals, and cleaning up after mealtimes. However, dining with others can provide a sense of community, companionship, and a sense of purpose. Seniors who dine together are more likely to share experiences, stories, and laughter which can help combat feelings of isolation and loneliness.
While sharing meals can improve nutrition in seniors, it can also provide improved mental stimulation. When we share meals, we often engage in conversation which can help keep the mind active and sharp. In addition, seniors who eat together are more likely to participate in social gatherings after the meal, such as playing cards, games or going to a social activity.
Improved quality of life
Overall, seniors who dine together can experience an improved quality of life. Socialization, improved nutrition, and mental stimulation can all contribute to a happier and healthier life. Sharing meals can also provide a sense of routine and structure, which can be especially important for seniors.
Making Mealtimes Special for Seniors
Your loved one may need some encouragement to share meals with others in the beginning. Older adults, especially those who live alone, may have become accustomed to eating alone and be hesitant to change their habits. However, dining with others can boost mood, improve one’s appetite and decrease the risk of isolation and loneliness. Here are a few things you can do to encourage your loved one to dine with others:
- Invite friends and family members. You may consider reaching out to friends and family to create a schedule where they take turns eating with your loved one. Encourage these individuals to bring their loved one’s favorite meals or find a recipe they can make together.
- Hire a meal companion. Private duty aides can be hired for the sole purpose of companionship. Many times, these caregivers will take your loved one to the store, prepare a meal and even stay to share it.
- Utilize technology. If your loved one lives far away, you may even consider sharing a meal over Zoom, facetime, or other video conferencing platforms. While it doesn’t replace being together physically, it does make a difference if it’s the only option
Bernice Lagattuta, a resident at Inspīr Carnegie Hill knows the value of eating with new friends in the 1802 Restaurant. “The food is wonderful here. The staff gets to know you and your preferences, and sometimes I don’t even need to order my food. They just bring it right over without me having to say a word. Breakfast is one of my favorite times to connect with my friends since we all sit at the same table and pull up as many chairs as we can fit. I am always taken aback by the interesting conversations I have with the residents here, and it is exciting making new friends. This is something I couldn’t have done if I were still living at home.”
At Inspīr, we believe in the connection of food and we aim to make the dining experience one that exceeds all expectations. Our chefs at Inspīr are always serving up healthful, delicious meals that are meant to be shared alongside vibrant conversation. See what's on the menu at Inspīr Carnegie Hill and what we have planned for Inspīr Embassy Row.