Holly, Jolly Time: How to Host a Gathering with Cooking Limitations

When we think of holiday gatherings, many of us imagine banquet-sized tables groaning with serving dishes, a bustling kitchen and all of our loved ones gathered ‘round. This is somewhat easy to accomplish if you’re living in a large family home, but when you or Mom and Dad have moved to a senior living apartment, you may think that the days of major holiday meals are over. Not so, says Angel Van Horn, Community Relations Specialist at Park Manor, the most trusted retirement community in Nashville, TN. 

“The holidays are about coming together and being with the people you love, and you don’t need to have a specific square footage in order to accomplish that,” Angel says. “It is absolutely possible to host a holiday gathering in your senior living apartment without having to cut your guest list.”

In order to accomplish that holiday magic, you’ll need to think creatively, be flexible and have a few workarounds in your back pocket. “Holidays in senior living will be different than having a gathering in your big family home – there’s no doubt about that,” she says. “But that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun or enjoyable. In fact, you may find that starting new traditions in your space can make this the best holiday yet.”

4 Tips for Hosting Holidays in Senior Living Apartments

1. Create as much space as possible.

The first thing to think about is how you’ll be able to fit everyone into your home. This may seem impossible when you first take a look at your well-laid-out and furnished apartment. But you can definitely do some things to make the most of what you have. Designate an off-limits room (like a spare bedroom) and pack things in there to get them out of the way. Rearrange the furniture to open up your floor space (moving everything to the outer corners of the room is a great place to start). Consider renting or borrowing folding chairs and card tables, which can easily be arranged. 

Think creatively about where you’ll be eating, as well. Sure, you may not have a dining room table that seats 20, and that’s okay. Consider placing card tables throughout your space for smaller, still lively conversation. Or forego tables altogether and instead have TV trays or small side tables that you can put next to the couch. Most people don’t mind holding a plate in their lap as they sit and chat. 

2. Make the meal as easy and enjoyable as possible. 

Besides the space limitations, cooking limitations – such as a small or not-completely-stocked kitchen – are the other big issue when it comes to hosting holiday gatherings in your senior living apartment. Fortunately, you have options. Gone are the days when you had to slave away over the stove and take up all the counter space – today, getting a full-on holiday meal with all the trimmings can be as easy as picking up the phone (or using a handy app on your smartphone). Many grocery stores have specials around the holiday season where you can pay a special price for a traditional meal complete with side dishes, desserts and appetizers. If the options aren’t to your liking, you can create your own party plan through the catering department. 

Another option is to work with the culinary team at your senior living community. With enough advance notice, the kitchen would be happy to coordinate and cook a special meal for your gathering (just be sure to plan ahead, since they may be helping others in your community throw parties as well). Best of all, meals like this can be as simple as having hot, prepared dishes delivered to your door the day of the celebration. 

If you can’t imagine throwing a holiday party without doing some cooking yourself, never fear. Choose recipes that you can make or at least prep before the actual party. That way, you’ll be able to spend less time in the kitchen during the event and more time gathering with your guests. Of course, another excellent option is to have your guests bring a dish to pass – that way, everyone gets in on the holiday-baking-and-making fun. 

3. Keep mess to a minimum. 

Holiday meals and gatherings are great, but they also involve a lot of dishes, cleanup and potential for messes. Instead of hauling out the fine china and serving dishes, consider using disposable everything. Disposable cutlery and dishes have come quite a long way over the years (some of them look as nice as the options they’re replacing), and there are many options on the market for one-time-use cookware and serving dishes. Worried about spills? Spread a plastic tablecloth on the floor. At the end of the party, you can toss everything away. 

4. Coordinate with your community. 

One of the best things about living in a senior community is the social aspect. During the holiday season, communities will have lots of festive activities going on. Take a look at the event calendar to see if there’s an opportunity to coordinate a holiday gathering with something fun going on (like a concert or visit from Santa). You might also want to consider renting out a room for games and activities after the meal (or you can even have the meal in a community room – leaving your home clean and ready for entertaining afterwards). 

Another fun option is to open up the holiday gathering to your other friends in the community. This is another creative solution for cooking limitations. Your friends can help prepare meals in their kitchens, or you can do a progressive style gathering where appetizers are in one apartment, the main course is in another, desserts in another and a big gathering space is in a final location. This is a great way to bring some holiday cheer to your friends, especially if they don’t have family close by. 

“When you move into a senior living community, it’s important to remember that the entire community is your home – not just your apartment,” says Angel. “We love helping our residents throw and host holiday gatherings for their friends and family and have all sorts of ways to help you make a holly jolly gathering, even if your kitchen isn’t set up for entertaining. Our goal is to make you and your family members feel relaxed and have a great celebration, because we know that being with the people you love is the best part of the holidays.”

If you have more questions about hosting a holiday party even if you have cooking limitations, please contact us at 615.277.1107.

Love Where You Live!

Have you ever asked yourself the question, “Do I love where I live?” If you ask that question of the residents of Park Manor, Nashville’s premier retirement community, the answer would be a resounding, “Yes!” For over 50 years, Park Manor has served Nashville’s seniors by providing a community designed to support an active, independent, secure, healthy and worry-free lifestyle.  Located on seven spacious acres in the desirable Nashville neighborhood Belle Meade, we’re proud to provide a lifestyle our residents love each and every day. 

Park Manor’s approach to senior living is simple: exceed our residents’ expectations. We strive to provide everything you could possibly need and want to live your life the way you choose. At Park Manor, you will enjoy a standard of living reminiscent of a luxury resort – but it’s not a vacation – it’s your lifestyle! This commitment is why we are held in such high regard by our surrounding community and are known as the premier retirement community offering Independent Living and Assisted Living lifestyles.

For seniors requiring memory care, Park Manor is associated with the prestigious Abe’s Garden® Memory Care Center of Excellence. Abe’s Garden® is committed to transforming the care of those with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia by establishing a national model of residential living and day care programs for those suffering from the disease. Abe’s Garden® provides an unprecedented level of care in addition to a comprehensive array of services and lifestyle options. 

At Park Manor, your continued independence is our top priority. Enjoy living life as you choose ... in the comfort and privacy of your own apartment, while having the peace of mind of knowing help is available if and when you need it.

For more information, please call 615.277.1107.