3 Ways to Bring Warmth to the Table in Your Senior Living Community this Holiday Season

Originally published November 30, 2012 at RetirementHomes.com.

1. Take Time to Be Kind

The dining room in a senior living community can be a hectic place, especially during mealtimes. As serving staff races back and forth delivering meals, trying to remember several things at once, it is all too easy to forget the most important task at hand: giving kind service.

You have a challenging job. But, as dining staff, you play an important role in your community. Sometimes, giving a few extra seconds of your time can make a big difference for another person.

Is a new community member arriving in your dining room today? Welcome him or her personally and make introductions to table-mates. Has someone lost a loved one recently? Remember that person’s emotions may be fragile. Speak gently and be respectful if he or she wants to sit in a different place or has a small appetite. Does a resident seem to be having a hard day? Try saying, “Hello, it’s nice to see you today!” Perhaps you’ll be the bright spot that makes their day better.

2. Kindly Break the Ice

Sharing happy holiday stories encourages talking and minimizes the “icebergs” in our homes and communities. Make a special effort to engage with newer residents, or those who tend to have trouble starting their own conversations.

As an example, you might say, “The chef is planning our holiday pies for next week. Are you a fruit pie fan or a pumpkin pie fan?” If there’s an upcoming party, ask residents what they are planning to wear. Or, share a funny holiday story about something your dog did.

Conversation is the glue that binds relationships together.

3. Be Kind, a Little at a Time

We’ve all heard the old joke, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!” In the beginning, change works the same way.

Improving dining service can feel daunting at first, but you don’t have to do everything all at once. Break down your goals into action steps designed to improve one meal at a time, or even to improve the first 15 minutes of a meal. This technique creates a more workable context for everyone. Identify and celebrate achievable goals, no matter how small they seem.

Encourage each other with that other old saying:

“We can all do small things, with great love, and together we can do something wonderful.”

~ Mother Theresa

You’ll soon be seeing a very large difference in your senior living community during the holidays, and every day!

About Cindy Heilman

Cindy is the founder and owner of Kind Dining®, which she began in 2006. She’s traveled across the country and Canada working with and training senior living communities that want to create an exceptional dining experience for their residents and staff. In addition, she certifies select professionals in her Kind Dining® philosophy and provides tools, now in an eLearning format, that make learning stick and help people put insights into action. As a result of her work, clients often share their staff has a new sense of purpose, get along better and keep their focus and energy on what matters most. In fact, she wrote a book, Hospitality for Boomers on how to attract residents and keep good team members. In her free time, she enjoys walking Oregon trails and cheering on her favorite soccer teams, the Portland Thorns and Timbers.

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