Thanksgiving For Seniors: 6 Ideas For A Perfect Feast

Planning a Thanksgiving party for older adults can be daunting, but it doesn't have to be. Let us help you by providing a list of ideas and resources for hosting the perfect celebration!

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Thanksgiving is a time for family and friends to get together and celebrate.

But what about those of us who are older?

Should we have to miss out on the festivities because of the challenges of aging?

Not at all! We can enjoy plenty of activities, snacks, and even movies thanks to our golden years.

So whether you’re celebrating your special Thanksgiving or hosting one for someone aging in your life, read on for a list of ideas that will make your perfect holiday!

© Graying With Grace – Reproducible With Attribution and Link to Source

Hosting a Thanksgiving Party

There’s no need to stress over Thanksgiving this year – thanks to these clever tips, hosting a Thanksgiving party is a cinch! 

1. Make Sure to Finalize the Guest List

Most senior living communities plan a variety of holiday activities. Include family and close friends, and select those who will be able to travel comfortably.

Elders are more likely to miss their loved ones on holidays such as Thanksgiving. Their loved ones’ presence will make them happy.

2. Plan the Setting 

Thanksgiving dinner should be festive and relaxing – choose a setting that will reflect that.

Check if the specific time and location are as scheduled. It ensures that everyone attending has enough time to prepare and eat meals without rushing or missing anything.

3. Arrange a Potluck Meal

If you’re hosting a potluck meal, make sure to create a festive and inviting table. Please provide plenty of food options, from easy-to-eat foods such as hot soup or macaroni & cheese.

To more elaborate appetizers like stuffed mushrooms or casserole dishes filled with meatballs, rice pilafs (often served alongside turkey), mashed potatoes (with gravy), cranberry sauce/jelly beans/cranberry sauce/pancakes…the list goes on!

Make sure there’s a good mix of vegetarian and non-vegetarian options. It will ensure that all your guests can find something they enjoy, regardless of whether they’re allergic to meat or not. You can also offer a few different desserts if you have time—and space!

4. Plan a Thanksgiving Activity and Games

Hosting games and activities keep everyone entertained and happy. Be sure to plan inclusive, age-appropriate activities (these are our favorites).

Senior citizens may have some limitations on what they can do in terms of physical activity, so you must ensure all your guests can participate fully in any activity you provide them with!

Thanksgiving Treats, Snacks, and Foods

Your senior loved to snack on sweet treats when he was younger, and now that he’s older, it’s time for you to help him enjoy his favorite foods. Candy corn and candy canes are always a hit, and peanut brittle.

Your senior might also like popcorn or crackers with cheese or fruit (or both). Meatballs or meatloaf are another go-to dish for seniors—turkey is also excellent thanksgiving food!

Here are five ideas for a perfect feast that seniors will love:

1. Extra Flavorful Turkey

Why not try a more flavorful turkey than the traditional roast? You can make extra-flavorful turkey by adding herbs and spices before cooking it in the oven.

For example, you could use rosemary, thyme, or sage to season the bird—or add some salt and pepper if you’re lazy! You could also try adding vegetables to the stuffing, such as corn or mushrooms (make sure to chop them up small enough not to choke the seniors).

Thanksgiving for seniors mashed potato
A classic Thanksgiving dish that your senior loved one will likely enjoy is a light and fluffy mashed potato.

2. Light and Fluffy Mashed Potato

Mashed potatoes are another classic Thanksgiving dish. They’re easy to make and everyone to enjoy at the table.

If your senior is a fan of mashed potatoes, try making them with skim milk or low-fat buttermilk instead of regular cream—this will help cut down on fat content! You could add herbs like rosemary or thyme to give them extra flavor.

3. Cranberry Bites

Bite-sized cranberry gems that are perfect for snacking. They’re made by mixing cream cheese with chopped cranberries and then rolling them into balls with a bit of flour. You can add some walnuts or almonds to give them extra crunch if you like!

4. Roasted Butternut Squash Soup and Curry Condiments

This soup is flavorful and perfect for the winter season. If you’re looking for a vegetarian dish, roasted butternut squash soup is an excellent option.

This simple soup is made by roasting the vegetables in the oven and blending them with broth or water. You can also add some curry powder and garlic to give it a little extra flavor.

If you’re looking for a unique side dish, try this, try making some curry-flavored condiments. You can mix mayonnaise with mustard and curry powder or garlic. It is a great way to add some extra flavor to your turkey.

5. Turkey and Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie

This yummy pie is perfect for those cold winter days. It’s hearty and comforting, with a delicious sweet potato filling. It’s high in protein and takes about 35 minutes or less to prepare.

Older adults still get a well-balanced meal – protein from the turkey, fiber and vitamin A from the sweet potatoes, and a ton of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants from the veggies and spices. 

See our list of easy Thanksgiving recipes for seniors and the elderly here.

Thanksgiving Craft/Activities for Seniors

For some seniors, being around family and friends is enough to make them happy. If your senior loved to craft when he was younger, and you want to keep him busy during Thanksgiving, here are some ideas.

Make a cornucopia out of paper or foam—a fun takes on the traditional Thanksgiving centerpiece!

You can also make decorative placemats using felt fabric and sewing supplies. If your senior likes painting and drawing, why not get some paints for an art project?

1. Word Building

This activity is an excellent way to help seniors stay sharp. When seniors search for words, they have to think about the letters and how they relate to one another. It helps them develop memory skills that can be helpful in everyday life.

2. Picture Puzzle

This is an excellent activity for visual learners and seniors. Place the Thanksgiving dinner images onto the grid, and have them fill in the blanks with the words. It is fun for seniors to pass the time while staying mentally active.

If you want to make it more interesting, get a puzzle with pictures of things that interest your senior.

For example, if he loves baseball and knows a lot about the game, get a baseball-themed mystery for him to put together. It will help him remember facts about his favorite sport while stimulating his brain.

3. Dinner Game

While waiting for the sumptuous food to be served at the dining table, this game is enjoyable. It is playable even by the elderly in a wheelchair.

This game helps to sharpen recall skills, for example, naming the foods that are all typically served on Thanksgiving Day.

4. Homemade Cards

Have your seniors make cards depicting Thanksgiving activities like carving the turkey, thanksgiving dinner tables, and more. This will enhance their creativity, encourage social interactions, and positively affect their mood. 

5. Set up a Gratitude Tree

Allow seniors to cut out colored paper in the shape of leaves and write down what they are grateful for. They get to be creative, reflect on significant events in their lives, and are encouraged to practice gratitude.

See our full list of Thanksgiving crafts and activities for older adults here.

Thanksgiving Games to Play

A thanksgiving party won’t be complete without games. By playing games, seniors can improve self-esteem and relieve stress, making them the perfect way to celebrate this holiday. 

Thanksgiving Trivia Quizzes, for example, are a great way to get seniors thinking about all the delicious food they’ll be eating and the traditions associated with Thanksgiving.

These Trivia Quizzes can also help them learn more about their family’s history, which will undoubtedly be entertaining!

Aside from the usual excitement of trying to win a prize, trivia quizzes can also teach elders about Thanksgiving history, culture, and other topics.

If you’re hosting a large gathering of family and friends for Thanksgiving dinner, set up quiz stations throughout the house so everyone has a fair chance of winning!

Thanksgiving for seniors songs and music
Playing the right Thanksgiving music in the background will help set the perfect mood.

Thanksgiving Songs and Music to Play

For Thanksgiving, not everything has to be serious and intense. In fact, why not choose some lighthearted and fun songs to play while everyone enjoys their delicious feast? Classics like “Auld Lang Syne” or “Turkey in the Straw” are perfect choices. 

If you’re hosting a Thanksgiving meal for seniors, choose songs they’ll enjoy. Alternatively, try novelty songs like “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” for added fun and spice. And, of course, play soft music in the background to set the perfect mood.

Remember, Thanksgiving is all about family and friends – make sure to get everyone together and have the best holiday feast ever!

These are Thanksgiving songs you can play to set the mood:

  • “We Get Together: 14 Thanksgiving Hymns” by Craig Duncan
  • “The Thanksgiving Song” by Adam Sandler
  • “Macy’s Day Parade” by Green Day
  • “Thanksgiving Prayer” by Johnny Cash
  • “I Want To Thank You” by Otis Redding
  • “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge
  • “Ode to My Family” by the Cranberries
  • “I Could Not Ask for More” by Sara Evans
  • “Thank God for Hometowns” by Carrie Underwood
  • “I’ve Got Plenty to Be Thankful For” by Bing Crosby
  • “The Story” by Brandi Carlile
  • “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town” by Pearl Jam
  • “Family Tradition” by Hank Williams Jr.
  • “Home” by Phillip Phillips
  • “It Doesn’t Have to Change” by John Legend ft. the Stephens Family
  • “Sweet Potato Pie” by Ray Charles

Thanksgiving Movies to Watch

These family-friendly films to watch on Thanksgiving Day are entertaining. Consider watching one of the films listed below. Each film will surely put a smile on your grandparents’ faces and get them in the holiday spirit!

1. The Humans

A movie based on Stephen Karam’s Award-winning play follows a family who gathers for Thanksgiving in one of their run-down apartments.

As the holiday progresses, the family begins to discuss their dreams and nightmares, revealing secrets about themselves that they have been keeping from each other.

2. Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles is part of John Hughes’ repertoire, which makes sense given the movie’s overall theme of “don’t judge people.”

Steve Martin assumes a lot about John Candy, and it turns out that John Candy is lonely, sad, and desperate for friendship after his wife dies.

3. Knives Out

Knives Out is a murder mystery told through the eyes of Marta, a kind nurse who follows her own rules and eventually becomes the sole owner of a large estate. The story is not only an allegory for America but also a guide for how we should live our own lives.

4. Holidays For Holidays

Thanksgiving Day is one of the most important holidays of the year. A day of reflection and giving thanks, spent with friends and family. It’s that day when truth and honesty hit you, and you realize that your own family may drive you insane before it’s over.

“Home for the Holidays,” directed by the multi-talented Jodie Foster and starring Holly Hunter, you will understand what unconditional love truly is.

5. Stepmom

It tells the story of two entirely different women who approach motherhood differently. They each navigate their parenting journeys, each with its challenges and benefits, all while attempting to stay on track.

Many of the difficulties inherent in stepfamily relationships are conveyed in this film, as are the insecurities we all experience when comparing ourselves to others.

RELATED: Thanksgiving Gifts for Seniors and Elderly

Summary and Final Recommendations

If you’re hosting a Thanksgiving meal for seniors, choose songs they’ll enjoy. Alternatively, try novelty songs like “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” for added fun and spice. And, of course, play soft music in the background to set the perfect mood. 

Remember, Thanksgiving is all about family and friends – make sure to get everyone together and have the best holiday feast ever!

As seniors are increasingly solo and isolated, providing them with fun and enjoyable Thanksgiving experiences is essential. Another great idea is to make a Thanksgiving-themed care package to distribute to older adults in your community.

Our guide has provided you with ideas for songs to play, movies to watch, and recipes to prepare – so don’t miss out on any opportunities. Make this extra holiday memorable for your loved ones!

Sources and Additional Resources:

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Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®
Assistive Technology Professional

Scott Grant has spent more than 20 years serving seniors and the elderly in the home medical equipment industry. He has worked as a manufacturer's rep for the top medical equipment companies and a custom wheelchair specialist at a durable medical equipment (DME) provider in WV. He is father to 4 beautiful daughters and has three terrific grandkids. When not promoting better living for older adults, he enjoys outdoor activities including hiking and kayaking and early morning runs.

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