Family dinners don't have to be a thing of the past

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In the past, families gathered to have dinner together on Sundays to catch up with the events of the previous week. We ate, laughed, talked and, most importantly, made lasting memories.

Research conducted by Home Instead, Inc., indicates that the frequency of sit-down dinners with senior relatives has decreased for a majority of families.

Only four of ten (39 percent) families with senior relatives living close by currently share Sunday dinners on a multigenerational level.

Conflicting schedules (52 percent) and time constraints (40 percent) were reported as the biggest barriers to having regular, weekly sit-down meals with a senior loved one.

Families understand that sharing meals can help to improve a senior's quality of life. The vast majority of North American families surveyed who have senior relatives feel that shared, sit-down family dinners could help seniors deal with loneliness (87 percent), loss of friends or loved ones (81 percent), depression (80 percent), health issues (71 percent) and poor diet (69 percent), and encourage seniors to share any problems they may have (78 percent).

Respondents overwhelmingly agreed that eating with multigenerational family members is a good way to reconnect and build stronger bonds among younger and older family members.

Survey results indicated that families are looking for motivation - such as an online personal pledge - and resources to help make regular Sunday dinners with their senior loved ones a part of their routine.

The survey results demonstrate that for most seniors, it's not what's on their plate that matters most at mealtime - it's who is at the table.

That's the message the Home Instead Senior Care franchise network is sending through its participation in the Sunday Dinner Pledges program. Information about the pledge program, online resources and recipes can be accessed at www.SundayDinnerPledge.com.

The program includes: (a) resources to plan and host dinners including conversation starters, tips on engaging seniors in family dinners and fun after-dinner activities and (b) easy, inexpensive recipes developed by a dietitian.

The Sunday Dinner Pledge is an online pledge you can take to benefit other seniors in the community. The Home Instead Senior Care Foundation will donate $1 for each pledge to Meals on Wheels (up to $25,000). To learn how to apply for a grant to benefit seniors in the community, visit www.homeinsteadseniorcarefoundation.org.

In the Lowcountry, seniors' families often live long distances away. Through churches, club memberships or community activities, many of you may be aware of seniors who have no family or close relationships.

If you are aware, why not take the Sunday Dinner Pledge and schedule regular meals with them? It doesn't have to be every week. Just think of the difference you will make in the lives of seniors you know... and perhaps even in your own.

Rachel Carson, Certified Senior Advisor, is the owner of the Home Instead Senior Care franchise serving the Lowcountry since 1997.

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