by, Amanda Janquart
Knowing where to sit in a communal dining room is intimidating. Think back to grade school, middle school, high school, perhaps college. What about stools at a bar, and even picnic tables at a reunion. One would hope it gets easier, but residents in senior living aren’t immune to hesitation. It took time, but the seniors at Inver Glen have found their regular seats. So imagine showing up with multiple preschoolers looking for places to sit and eat lunch alongside their beloved grandmas and grandpas!
We looked for friendly faces and asked if there was room at the men’s table. With a little startle, they moved around water glasses and menus and created spots for chairs to be added. It was quiet while the children pulled out their lunch boxes, but at the first sign of a struggle, the grandpas were there – offering to help open Tupperware and passing napkins to wipe mouths.
It was hard to read their minds. Did they enjoy the children squirming in their seats, spilling on occasion and at one point a child attempting to butter his grapes? The answer was slowly teased out. One grandpa told his family at the Christmas party that eating with the children was the highlight of his week. Another asked when we’d be back. And one made his first appearance in the preschool ever, “Just wanted to check out where the kids are.”
And so the lunches continue. Not every day, but just frequently enough to keep it special. The residents’ requests for company at their tables keep coming. One teacher brings three to five children at a time. They look forward to their turns to eat with the seniors and are prepped with encouragement to converse. Stories from their peers, such as when a grandpa shared his lemon meringue pie certainly helps build up the excitement!