The Benefits of Sunday Suppers Across 3 Generations

Do you remember Sunday suppers with Grandma and Grandpa (Pawpaw in my case)? Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, green beans, rolls and dessert. Mmm mm. Plus playin’ with your cousins and just feeling pure joy? I cherish those memories.

What’s even better are hearing my mom’s stories of Sunday suppers with her grandparents, parents, brothers, aunts, uncles and so many cousins. What a wonderful tradition to have, just a deep and wonderful sense of family and food.

Life seems kinda different these days. Sunday suppers with extended family have slowly been replaced by “someday” “too busy” and “who cares”.

As an ex-home health care inspector I’ve seen the positive effects of family involvement or lack of and nutrition on the speed of healing and quality of life in elderly patients. The results are somewhere between remarkable and chronic, not to mention the mental health aspect, ranging from engaged to lonely.

Recently I’ve been reading the book Healthy Aging by Andrew Weil, M.D. and his observations of older people really caught my attention. He said “old people often torment themselves with three general concerns 1) they don’t want to suffer 2) they don’t want to be burdens to others 3) they want the remainder of their lives to be meaningful.”

So I thought to myself, how does that relate to the benefits of Sunday suppers with grandma and grandpa?

  1. Suffering: NO one likes to suffer, except those who like to suffer. Grandparent inclusion at Sunday supper can decrease elder isolation (i.e. decrease suffering) which can result in an improved mental attitude and decreased depressive tendencies as well as overall improved health. Plus it just feels good to see their smiling faces at the table enjoying some family time and knowing they have one solid meal for the week.

  2. Burden: You’ve heard it, “No honey, it’s ok. I’ll just stay here and…” you know the rest. Maybe it’s watch TV alone, eat a TV dinner or crackers or something lacking in nutrition, remember nutrition is very important for elderly folks mainly because they tend to eat so little and lots of processed foods (easy to manage for one or two people). I’ve seen it with my own pawpaw years ago. When there was no one in the home at meal times, he often skipped the meal or ate poorly. This was for three reasons: 1) He couldn’t cook. 2) He couldn’t remember how to use the microwave. and 3) He just didn’t seem to feel hungry like he used to. The most beneficial time my mom visited was at lunch. She made sure he had a nutritious, home-cooked, hot meal which he ate with his daughter. I believe he was able to stay in his home longer because of this care. (Thanks Mom)

  3. Meaning: Grandparents who are involved in their grandchildren’s lives continue relevant relationships that often create greater connections. This is in all seasons of life, especially after the grandkids are grown. However, this is a two way street. It’s about reaching out and reaching back. Again, I suggest that Sunday suppers are a wonderful answer to creating a moment in the week that all three generations can enjoy together. I always say “food is our common denominator”. It doesn’t matter what our politics, religion, lifestyle, etc. We all need to nourish our bodies. Thus when the invitation is made to come to supper, we need not say “no” but rather an emphatic “Be right there!”

I’ll close with this little nugget “The family that eats together thrives together,” says Dr. Vanessa Lapointe, a registered psychologist and parenting expert. “Mealtime has historically been a time of family togetherness. Plus, if you’re getting multiple generations together, then there is tapestry of diversity in terms of ages and interests and that is just so good for kids.”

Hard to argue with that. So take care and enjoy your Sunday supper together this week.

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