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A Table for One
Making dining a pleasure in a household of one
The composition of our households and our lifestyles changes over time, but our furniture and things often become locked in place. We seldom adapt our home environment to our changing needs. Rather, we adjust our habits or bodies to a home that no longer syncs with us. Yet it doesn't take much to realign our home with who we are at a particular point in our lives. Something as simple as repositioning a chair or reorganizing kitchen cabinets, for example, can make a real difference in one's confidence, comfort, and ability to live in and enjoy their home as they grow older. As a student in our Aging 360 workshop so aptly said, "as I grow older and change, my home needs to change with me to enable me to live fully."
Traditionally, we take stock and rethink old habits at the end of the year. This is what I asked our subscribers to do: reflect on their relationship with their home, experiment with one, simple change during the holidays, and see how it feels. I took up this challenge myself, and what I did makes me feel so much more comfortable living in my home by myself.
The percentage of older adults living alone is increasing and so is the feeling of loneliness. Based on the 2020 census, 14 million older adults over 65 in the US live alone. I am one of them and so are seven of my closest friends. It's therefore worth considering how a home might make somebody feel comfortable and not lonely while living alone. That's what I decided to tackle with my little home adaptation.
For 20 years, three people and one or two dogs lived in my home. Now, it's just me and my dog, Luke. Luckily, the size of my house (which is just shy of 1000 square feet) works for one person; but eating alone at a dining table meant for 6 to 8 people reminded me of long-gone, weekly family dinners with our neighbors when our kids were small. It made me feel lonely, and I noticed I started to eat my meals sitting on the sofa, holding a plate, instead of at the dining table. This turned mealtime from a potentially celebratory or pleasant activity into a functional necessity. I also noticed that my living room was underused.
It was set up for a family, not a solo household. I talked about this with one of my single friends, and we came up with "my shift". I replaced the bigger lounge chairs in my living room, which were unused 90% of the time, with a small, 32-inch round dining table that could accommodate two people. I paired it with two modern, bent-plywood chairs my son had found on the street for free. I threw a sheep skin over one of the chairs to cover up the water damage it had from sitting outside. This was not just a fix--it actually made the chair more comfortable.
I love what this change has done for me and my home. I'm back eating meals at the table. I have candle light dinners. I occasionally look at a book from the nearby shelf. I also have a new view angle of my living room, which lets me appreciate paintings on the wall across from the new dining table. Now, I can use the bigger dining table in my kitchen for creative projects and let a sewing machine, fabric, paper and pencil serve as a daily invitation to engage.
To fulfill one of my New Year’s resolutions, to invite friends over for dinner at least twice a month, I can convert my creative workstation back into a dining table that I designed to extend to make room for 12. But every day, I now feel much more comfortable eating alone.
TIPS FOR A TABLE FOR ONE
A 32-inch, round dining table feels perfect for one, easily accommodates two people and occasionally, a third. A center support, instead of four legs, provides more flexibility for seating. The so-called Tulip table, a replica of an iconic designer table is an option and available for about $170.
A typical dining table height measures 29 to 30 inches. The standard chair height is 17 inches. For older adults, a slightly higher chair height is often more comfortable. Adding a firm cushion offers a good fix to achieve that height. The ideal dining chair for comfortable seating is upholstered, has arms and a stable construction. If you are shopping your own inventory and don't have an upholstered chair, putting a nice blanket or sheepskin over the seat and back provides a more cushioned seating experience.
Candles or a cordless table lamp provide not only beautiful light but also create atmosphere for an intimate dining experience. They make the placement of the table independent from any existing light source or outlet. Many restaurants use cordless table lamps; they range in price from $30. upwards. Cordless lamps also avoid electrical cords that often become a trip hazard, especially in older homes with fewer electrical outlets.
Meals For One:
If you decide to cook for yourself, here's a cookbook you might enjoy, The Pleasure of Cooking for One by Judith Jones, a renowned cookbook editor who "demonstrates that cooking for yourself presents unparalleled possibilities for both pleasure and experimentation." Alternatively, if you feel like treating yourself to a dinner prepared by somebody else occasionally, there are also plenty of meal delivery services available.