26 Feb 2024

Entertaining Older People

Whether you are welcoming in-laws, grandparents or older friends or relatives into your home, it is essential that you play the generation game. Even middle-aged guests will find their energy levels and priorities challenged by a household with young children, so you must think carefully about your guests’ age, tastes, stamina and disposition before inviting them to your home.

Create a Comfortable Environment

Before welcoming older guests to your home, examine your house carefully and ensure that you have addressed the following questions:

•Are there plenty of comfortable chairs?

It can be difficult for older people to manoeuvre themselves out of very low-slung chairs and sofas. It’s better to supply more upright chairs, with armrests (for leverage) and plenty of scatter cushions (for back support).

•Have you supplied occasional tables?

It’s not just older people who sometimes find it hard to reach drinks that are on the floor, and won’t want to juggle plates, cups and glasses on their laps. Provide handy tables adjacent to their chairs.

•Is there enough light?

Very dim lighting will play havoc with failing eyesight. Ensure that stairs, hallways and landings are well lit. Supply plentiful table lamps and bedside lamps and opt for high-wattage bulbs.

•Is your house warm enough?

Older people are more liable to feel the cold, so turn up the thermostat, make sure doors remain closed and take care not to seat your guests in direct drafts. We’re all being a bit stingier about heating in these straitened times, but you will really need to make an exception for older guests. Hot-water bottles and a cosy extra blanket in the guest bedroom are also good ways of ensuring that your guests are comfortable.

•Is your bathroom hazardous?

Ensure that your guests are safe in the bathroom by placing anti-slip mats in the bath/shower. Check that bathmats or rugs outside the bath/shower area have non-slip backing.

•Is the floor area clear?

You don’t want your guests to trip and fall on a rogue toy – so check carefully that any potential hazards are stowed away.

Create a Welcoming Atmosphere

•Amend your Timetable

Older guests will probably not want to eat an enormous dinner at 9pm and may tend to go to bed earlier and be up with the lark. Adjust your usual timings to accommodate these requirements. You may well find that they prefer a regular succession of small meals throughout the day and it might be a good idea to put a kettle and tea bags in the guest bedroom.

•Give your Guests Plenty of Space

Older guests may enjoy spending time in their own bedroom, or just sitting quietly in a comfortable chair away from the rest of the family. Don’t try and provide too much stimulus – ensure that your guests have time to read, do crossword puzzles and watch the television.

 •Keep an Eye on the Children

Even if they’re seeing their own grandchildren, you must accept that most older people are a little less tolerant of the noise, disruption and havoc that children can create. So, observe your kids and their interactions and, if you see any signs of incipient weariness or impatience, give your guests a break.

•Don’t Overdo It

Planning a packed timetable of country walks, stately home visits and pub lunches is laudable, but it’s probably unrealistic. Try and pace the days, so that ­­– for example – a morning outing is offset by a quiet afternoon of gentle chat and tv-viewing.

•Keep the Kettle On

You may well find that older guests are very appreciative of regular cups of tea and biscuits throughout the day. They may be reticent about asking or “being a nuisance” so remember to keep offering.

Mind Your Manners

•Never make the crass assumption that old age is inevitably partnered with senility. Talking to older people as if they’re confused infants is the height of bad manners.

•Never assume that older people are deaf as posts. True, some older people are hard of hearing and, if that is the case, it will become immediately apparent. It is unforgivably rude to shout at an older person as if he or she is an imbecile.

•Different times, different manners. It is probably safe – unless you are instructed to the contrary – to assume that the older generation expects slightly more reticent and formal manners. This means taking the conversation at a slower pace, censoring off-colour jokes and stories, not swearing, and being respectful of, for example, religion (which might play an important role in the older person's life).

•Be patient. Everybody slows down as they get older and everyday tasks (walking, eating, getting dressed) will inevitably take longer. You must accept this with good grace. When planning the stay, pre-empt the problem by ensuring that you build in plenty of extra time.


MPA House
66 Baker Street
Weybridge KT13 8AL
United Kingdom
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66 Baker Street
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United Kingdom
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