Do your food servers know how to engage a conversation with an older person?

Alice was one of those women who never lacked for something to say. She wasn’t trying to earn a degree or win an award.  She just knew it relaxed the older people when she served their meals, especially newcomers to the community and especially in these days of quarantines. Alice wasn’t always so gifted with her tongue; it was something she learned while listening as she brought dinner when the dining rooms were still places for older people to gather. It caught her attention that many of them told family stories at the table. That sometimes led to family histories and genealogy tales. Others at the table were enrapt and became excited about following through and learning their family histories including writing them down for the younger generations who were too busy to research.

Evidence has shown that this interaction of family stories is beneficial to all people involved. It raises self-esteem, gives a sense of purpose and a new goal. It can also give value to the life an older person has reexamined. Writing down their stories increases their sense of self-worth.

Alice noticed the difference recently while serving a resident in her room. With the restrictions placed by the pandemic the woman who had previously been chatty, had now become too quiet, maybe showing some telltale signs of depression. Alice purposely asked questions about family history she had prepared ahead of time. She softened the query by offering a story of her own family. Then she introduced the idea of genealogy research, explaining ways the woman could begin. It worked! Excitement filled the room and continued day after day. The resident was eager to tell Alice the information she found and the history of the family she had no idea about.

Kind Dining® coaches food servers on the art of making, and the importance of conversation. It is much easier if you know how to open a conversation and are ready with questions to ask in a gentle manner. Making small talk is a talent learned by food servers to engage older people into opening up, encourage them to chat while you are serving their meals. In these days of the coronavirus, every bit a food server can do to help reduce the stress and lessen the anxiety of an older person adds more value to who they are and what they do.

Our B♥ Kind® Tip: Do you know how to relax a new resident while serving their meal today?

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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