Who’s Coming to Dinner? How to Welcome Guests of All Ages

You’ve finally taken the big leap and invited your entire family, and a few choice friends, to Thanksgiving dinner.  The menu is planned, food items have been assigned, and now you have a few minutes to focus on how to accommodate everyone.

Where will they sit?  Who will be able to squeeze into the kitchen to help?  What about the “after dinner football” time?  Suddenly, you remember that there will be toddlers, great grandparents, and every age in between.  And you panic…just a little.

Welcome to your first introduction to Visitability – designing and arranging homes to welcome visitors of all ages, sizes, and capabilities. Since every home has a center of activity, and it’s usually the kitchen and the rooms just beyond, we’re fairly certain that this is where your guests will be congregating for the day.  So let’s focus here with a checklist to follow, and make this a fun, memorable, and thankful day for all!

A Family Meal

Where will everyone sit during dinner?

  • Do you have enough chairs for everyone?
  • Most dining room tables with 2 extensions will seat 12 crowded, and 10 comfortably.  If an older relative will be joining you, comfortable is better.  Their chair should be out of the traffic flow, but easily accessible in case they need to get up a time or two.
  • Toddlers in high chairs or booster seats need to be seated next to someone who can supervise them.
  • Do you need folding tables?  Where will you place them?  Will it become the dreaded “kid’s table?”
  • Will the food be served buffet style or family style?  Remember that passing heavy turkey platters might be too heavy for little ones and for some of our older guests.
  • Have you inspected your house for loose area rugs that might be a hazard for running preschoolers, or anyone else who is hustling to the dining room with platters of food.

Kitchen time:

  • Everyone of all ages and abilities wants to feel useful, or at least join in the conversation while the meal is prepared.
  • Step stools for a pre-schooler to reach the counter and sink let’s them feel so special!  It’s a great idea for those of us too short to reach the top shelf.
  • Stools at the counter are a thoughtful touch so that anyone can rest while chopping vegetables for the salad.
  • A chair at the kitchen table is also a way for other older guests to feel like they’re a part of the activitiy, and still help with the meal.
  • If you have ways to vary your counter heights for helpers with bad backs or legs, you’re on the way to being the perfect hostess.  Kitchen tables are low enough to roll out pie crust in comfort.  Bar counters are great for serving food, but sometimes too high for school age children.

Remember that age isn’t the only thing to consider when you think about accommodating your guests.  Last year, my husband’s planned knee surgery meant that he needed to prop his leg during dinner and after.  Rugs needed to be removed so that his walker wouldn’t catch the edges and trip him.  This year, my friend had emergency surgery and will need a really comfortable chair to sit it during dinner.  And I know she’ll want to join in the conversation while we cook.

Visitability is definitely something we all need to be aware of during the holidays.  How can you modify your home this holiday season?