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Thanksgiving with Elder Relatives

As we head towards the Holiday season, with the colder days and the cozier homes, it can be overwhelming to think of all the planning and organizing that goes into hosting (or attending!) a family event. Thanksgiving can be especially challenging. Who makes the turkey? Is it an actual turkey or a “tofu-rkey?” How much cranberry sauce can someone eat? And who is going to do all the dishes!? With an elder relative who might not be as mobile or able as they used to be, this can only increase the challenge. But it doesn’t have to be stressful. Here are few things to think about for your elder relatives and friends when planning your Thanksgiving festivities.

  • Diet restrictions

As we age, our bodies may not be able to handle the eating habits we had when we were younger. 5 pounds of turkey and 3 pieces of pumpkin pie may be gluttonous (albeit very uncomfortable) for someone in their 20s or 30s, but it can be outright impossible for an elder person. Sometimes in the spirit of the holiday we can get caught up in the “bountiful harvest” aspect of Thanksgiving, with dozens of dishes and casseroles and desserts. But for elder people, who may not be able to eat something as indulgent as apple pie with ice cream and caramel, it can be depressing to be unable to participate. Consider making (or bringing) some easier to digest and healthier foods for your elder relatives.

  • Activities

Some of the fondest (and most competitive!) memories may of us have in the United States is playing pick-up football on Thanksgiving. Although it can be a bit rough, with rough-housing between cousins and passive-aggressive “trash talk” in the backyard, it’s a fun family event that includes everyone, even if they’re just cheering from the sidelines. But an easier, more inclusive activity for elders is often appreciated by everyone as well. Watching a movie after dinner, or watching a parade on TV can be just as fun. Even a board game-session with the family can be a fun and competitive event for everyone to participate in. Just don’t complain when grandma bankrupts you in Monopoly!

  • Timing

They call it the early-bird special for a reason! Although in our daily lives we may be used to having dinner when everyone gets home from their day, later in the evening and after sundown, elder people often have different schedules. Waking up early and going to sleep early are more common in older people than they are in busy younger families. With this in mind, think about having your main Thanksgiving course happen earlier than a regular dinner. Serving food in the early afternoon rather than in the evening can space out the day’s activities and make it easier for elder people (and very young people!) to participate.

In general, as with all family events, it’s important to keep in mind the changing lifestyles and requirements of our elder relatives. Planning Thanksgiving with elders in mind can make the entire day fun and fulfilling for everyone! From crafts done during the day while everything is being made, to watching the Thanksgiving parade, to going on an easy walk to look at foliage, there are many things to do during the day for everyone, no matter their age.

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Senior Steps is a full-service geriatric care management company offering top-quality, personalized care to elderly clients on Boston’s South Shore. We offer free consultations, so call us today at 617-405-8796 or e-mail us at if you would like to chat about how we can help you or an elderly loved one with medical, financial, or legal advocacy, or activities of daily living.

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