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The Senior’s Guide to Hosting Holiday Gatherings

You probably found your holiday plans were disrupted last year. Now everyone’s eager to make up for lost time. This is a great opportunity to get friends and family together and enjoy some cherished holiday traditions. However, for seniors it can be tricky to throw a party when you are also dealing with mobility and health issues and other aging-related concerns.

In a time when many seniors are aging in place, they also want to continue inviting the family to their home for celebrations. The name of the game for senior-hosted parties is to work smarter, not harder. Focus on your priorities for the celebration and let other things go. Hire out or do in advance what you can. Finally, see if you can get creative in how you celebrate. Would a virtual, hybrid, or open house-style holiday work out better?

Plan ahead

Don’t just plan out the menu and guest list. A lot of people stumble over the timing of everything that goes into hosting a party. Planning ahead lets you troubleshoot issues before the big day.

When you’re writing out the holiday plan, try working backwards. Before you serve that holiday feast, when do the dishes need to be cooked? Before that, when is the table set? What will your guests be doing during the wait? A list like this helps you see where your schedule’s too tight.

Less is more for holiday activities

You probably won’t have time or energy for every holiday activity and that’s okay. Chances are, there are a few traditions that are dear to your heart. Is it adding a new family photo to your wall? Decorating Christmas cookies with the grandkids? Come up with a priorities list that includes two can’t-miss activities and two that would be nice if you have time. Work them into the plan you’ve started (see above) to make sure they happen.

Consider different kinds of parties

The traditional holiday celebration involves the extended clan descending on one house, often staying there over the whole day. Is that the best fit for your home and your energy levels? Will guests even be able to make it, given COVID-related travel restrictions? Consider other options such as an Open House celebration. This is a great way to spend time with people who may have plans for Christmas, but have free time during the day.

Consider splitting the hosting duties. Here you share hosting with another family member. For instance, can everyone enjoy New Year’s dinner at their place and then come to yours for the big countdown?

What about holidays over video call? These parties can be all-remote, or you may host a small gathering of local family while other guests drop in via apps like Zoom. You’ll be able to chat, watch them open presents, enjoy holiday movie nights, or play certain card games with the grandkids.

Wrangle some help

Is there an able-bodied relative who can be your designated holiday helper? Do any of your neighbors have a reliable teenager who could help you out for a modest wage? What about professional services like a caterer or party manager? An extra pair of hands can do wonders for setting the party up and keeping it running.

Embrace seasonal decor

This hack is to focus on the whole season, not decorate with just one holiday in mind. Instead of swapping out between Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s gear, use centerpieces and other decorations that bring to mind a winter wonderland. These will be appropriate all season long, so you won’t have to keep redecorating.

Lay items out ahead of time

Breaking out the bread maker or other special household gadgets? Before the big day, retrieve them from whatever high cabinet or box in the garage that they’ve been banished to. Get everything set out at least a day in advance. You’ll have time to wipe them down and you won’t risk a strained back on the big day.

Keep track of your normal routine even as you do the special things. Remember to keep to any medical regime you have – use your life alert system or smart watch to remind you to take medications, and other monitoring functions.

Look for cooking shortcuts

Let’s face it, cooking those mouthwatering feasts is often the most difficult part of the holiday. Can you trim some corners without sacrificing quality? Think about arranging a holiday potluck and asking guests to bring one dish apiece. Or order time-consuming entrees like the turkey from a local restaurant – a lot of people use this holiday hack, so book it well in advance.

More shortcuts include bulk-cooking basic foods that can be used in multiple dishes, such as browning a big pot of onions that can go over the meatloaf, or on sliders, or in French onion soup. Prep dishes like potato salad ahead of time and refrigerate them. Make rustic desserts that don’t require extensive decorations, such as topping pies with whipped cream instead of fiddling with lattice-style crusts.

There’s a good chance that you’ll be low on energy after a long day of celebrations. Any health conditions you’re handling may also take that opportunity to flare up. Disposable items like plastic cutlery and paper plates make cleanup a lot easier.

Forget perfect parties and aim for great get-togethers

Why are people gathering at your house this holiday season? It’s not just to eat your delicious home cooking and watch Christmas movies. They also want to spend some time with you. Look for shortcuts for setting up the celebration and cleaning up afterward. Every minute you spare is time spent with loved ones enjoying the holiday rituals that mean the most to you.