Summer BBQ? Plan Ahead for the Elder Contingent

In our family, we like to have everyone over, once in the summer and once during the winter holidays. And the summertime get-together is especially fun if the weather allows us to be outdoors. Last month, I wrote about some conditions that cause problems for older adults at festivals. Those very same issues—and some new ones—came up as I started planning for our upcoming family barbeque.

Indeed, it takes some careful planning to ensure older family members are comfortable. Remember that sun, heat and humidity are not friends for older adults.

Here are some tips for you to consider for your family gathering this summer:

  • Offer shaded seating, under a tree or umbrella, or a cool place, which may mean inside. It’s nice to be able to offer a hand-held fan if it’s very hot.
  • Provide sunscreen and insect repellent if needed. Of course, these are important for everyone—not just older adults.
  • Assign someone, or several people, to check on grandpa, grandma or great aunt Jane at regular intervals. And bring them something to drink when you see they are empty handed.
  • Choose foods that hold up well for these kinds of parties, and have plenty of ice at hand to keep cold foods cold.
  • Offer older relatives or friends help at the buffet table, especially if you are outdoors. It can be hard to walk on uneven ground and balance a plate and/or a drink. In some cases, it might be best to fix up a plate with food and bring it to older party attendees.
  • Accompany an older relative to the restroom area. If you are in a park, this may be some distance away. But even at home, there can be so much commotion that your older relative may feel unsure about getting from a chair on the porch to the bathroom in the house.

Lastly, don’t forget to spend some time with the ‘old folks.’ They might have great stories to tell—or not. Either way, they are likely interested in learning about what you are doing. And whether or not they are good conversationalists, we only get to have our oldest relatives around for a short time—enjoy it!

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