Food has been bringing people together since the beginning of time. Think about your first date – sharing a meal at a restaurant or a bucket of popcorn at the cinema; or the homemade feasts you have with your family every Thanksgiving. No matter the occasion, food has always been at the forefront of it. For many seniors alike, the kitchen is where the fondest memories are created and where they are the most comfortable. As we age, physical and cognitive deteriorations might discourage seniors from participating in the kitchen. However, the benefits of cooking are plenty, especially for the elderly. Let’s look at some.
Physical and Psychological Benefits
In recent years, there has been more research into cooking as a therapy. Culinary therapy is the therapeutic technique of employing cooking and culinary arts to address emotional and psychological problems.
Cooking can be used as a therapy for various mental and physical health issues relating to the elderly. Using an individual’s personal and cultural relationship with food and the associated senses, culinary therapy can be a positive experience for those with early signs of dementia, keeping them in touch with their memories.
As seniors are encouraged to stay active, being engaged in the kitchen can help them exercise their bodies and mind. Physically, cooking helps maintain dexterity and good hand-eye coordination through motions such as cutting, stirring or kneading. Mentally, cooking can help seniors stay active as it requires focus, planning, remembering and following through with the recipe.
Cooking can also be generally therapeutic. While enjoying the fruits of your labor, aka a good meal, is a large part of the joy of cooking, the activity is more about the process than the final product. The mental and physical capacity cooking requires forces you to be present – to appreciate the smells and flavors you’re creating. The meditative nature of cooking can thus help seniors feel happier, grounded, and less anxious.
Eating is a highly social event, and so is cooking! Cooking builds relationships, promotes social bonding and even self-expression. The creative aspect of cooking allows seniors to experiment with ingredients and flavors, quite literally spicing up their life. Cooking with the entire family, from grandchildren to grandparents, is an excellent way for everyone to bond. There are lots of happy memories associated with food and cooking as well. Therefore, when you encourage your loved ones to participate in the kitchen, you create an excellent opportunity for everyone to get together, have fun and make fond memories.
It is widely known our appetites decrease with age. Though this is normal, it is still essential to ensure that your aging loved ones get all the nutrition they need. Being in the kitchen means having a say, so if your elderly mom has specific preferences, getting her to cook will mean she gets to make her food how she enjoys it. Thus, by engaging your elderly loved ones to partake in the making of their foods, you increase the likelihood of them finishing their meals.
Remember to take necessary precautions to ensure that cooking is safe for your loved ones. The most significant causes of senior hospitalizations are falls and fires. Therefore, ensure that the kitchen floor is clean and help keep an eye on the kitchen.