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:
Sharing Meals at Maplewood Senior Living
Our communities at Maplewood Senior Living prioritize community living, including shared meal experiences. Our culinary team excels in providing nutritious, yet delicious foods that can be shared in our community dining spaces. To learn more about our community living options, please contact us. We’d love to hear from you!
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