The holiday season, including Thanksgiving this week, is all about food and family (and don’t forget football!). For residents of senior living communities, such as continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs, or life plan communities), beloved holiday traditions may undergo an evolution. And while change can sometimes be difficult, it also can allow for the creation of new favorite rituals to look forward to year after year.
Let’s take a look at some of the ways CCRCs and their residents might formulate creative new ways to celebrate the holiday season.
A new spin on holiday gatherings
Most senior living residences don’t have large dining rooms or kitchens like residents may have had in their previous home. The living area also may not seat as many guests as a resident’s long-time home did. But a smaller residence need not constrain CCRC residents’ holiday festivities with friends and loved ones.
For residents who still relish hosting large family gatherings, many CCRCs and other senior living communities have multipurpose or banquet rooms that can be reserved for private events. With COVID restrictions eased or lifted in most of the country, this set-up could enable the consummate holiday host to continue their beloved duties.
Other residents may actually feel a sense of relief to pass the torch of hosting large holiday gatherings. Afterall, it is a lot of work both beforehand and afterward! A CCRC move can present an opportune time to hand off the bulk of the responsibility to another family member while still being a resource to lend a helping hand to them if needed.
Another option to tweak holiday family gatherings can include making meals potluck to spread around the cooking responsibilities, getting a premade takeout feast (offered by many grocery stores and restaurants, and even by some CCRCs’ dining services), or possibly opting to go out to eat (saving you both prep time and clean-up effort).
>> Related: Reimagining the Traditions of Family Gatherings
Dining service’s opportunity to shine
Indeed, there is no better time of year than the holidays for senior living communities’ dining services teams to showcase their culinary talents. Many CCRCs and other communities enjoy making a big deal out of the holidays, including creating fun, festive, and delicious food menus.
One example is the always-popular Thanksgiving leftover event. Who doesn’t love those tasty leftovers, after all! Some CCRCs’ chefs develop delectable menus for the day after Thanksgiving comprised of all that extra turkey, stuffing, potatoes, and more, allowing residents to savor the flavors of the season for just a little longer.
Another popular holiday dining tradition at some CCRCs is chef-created holiday heirloom recipes. For this meal or tasting event, the community will collect some of its residents’ favorite family recipes and the chef and his or her team will recreate them for residents to sample and enjoy.
These heirloom recipe meals or tasting parties often include an opportunity for the recipe contributor to share the story behind the dish — how it came to be a traditional favorite in their family. It’s a great chance for residents to experience some delicious new foods while sharing fond holiday memories with one another.
Other festive on- and off-campus activities
Another way that CCRCs and other senior living communities like to make the holidays special for their residents is by decking the halls with festive décor and planning a variety of fun seasonal activities for Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and New Year’s.
Communities typically will create a host of events throughout the holiday season — activities like tree-trimming parties, gingerbread house or cookie decorating, or afternoon gourmet hot cocoa with all the toppings. Others might organize volunteer events such as collecting food for the local food pantry or toys for children in need, or holiday bazaars that are open to the public, bringing local storefronts onto the CCRC campus to display and sell their wares.
Making new holiday traditions while honoring fond memories
Living in a senior living community, such as a CCRC, doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy the many festivities and rituals that come with the holiday season. While you may need to reimagine some of your long-time holiday traditions, there are many new traditions that can be created as well, ensuring CCRC residents’ holidays will always be merry and bright!
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