What you want from sit-in restaurants is much like what you want from life. What you want in your later years may not be your children’s cup of tea today. In the 20s loud pumps us up. After 50, loud means struggling to hear our companions or the servers. In our 30s, “hip” beckoned. Past 60, we want our favorite wine and menu items that don’t give us heartburn.
“Aging is not ‘lost youth’ but a new stage of opportunity and strength.”Betty Friedan
Older generations don’t want to wait in line for a table. “It will be about an hour,” the hostess at Ginger and Baker informs me. “Your name?” Before answering, I take a few minutes to calculate what percent sixty minutes represents in terms of my life expectancy. My youngest daughter pipes up, “Her name is Edith.” For family harmony, I decided not to ask her if she thought I’d forgotten.
Inside a restaurant, what we first notice is the seating. Stools with no back support or hard benches will ensure we don’t stay long. Afterwards, Tim stretches to relieve back stiffness, and I’m happy that I didn’t fall off. (It’s not reasonable to expect fast-food restaurants to provide comfy furniture. For fast-food restaurants, it’s about the cost and encouraging customers to move on.) Establishments looking to attract seniors would do well to provide us with comfortable seating and room to move without bumping into other patrons. When my meditation group goes out for dinner, we always pick the same restaurant because of the seating and acoustics.
“Getting old is like climbing a mountain; you get a little out of breath, but the view is much better!”Ingrid Bergman
Menus with small print, or worse yet those you have to scan and read on your phone are a big minus. Open your camera app, scan the QR code to open the menu on your smartphone. These directions are easy to follow for those south of retirement. The Vietnam generation shouldn’t need to be tech-savvy to order a meal. Why not offer large print menus like large print books? McDonald’s offers menus in braille. Some places have menus posted on the wall that work if you carry binoculars. Seniors are likely to have more money than younger people, and we certainly have more time. When we find a comfortable restaurant conducive to socializing, it becomes our go-to.
Poorly lit places with steps and thresholds are designed for sharper senses. Dimness may help pale my wrinkles, but we pick light every time.
“Aging is an extraordinary process where you become the person you always should have been.”David Bowie
Patrons at some eateries are subjected to television screens and loud music, and must yell at one another or admit they can’t hear what others are saying. We like quiet or soft background music. I’d rather eat at a place that resembles the local library than a sports bar.
We know what we like to eat and our favorite beverages. The cocktail list is not that important, but knowing we will have the wine we like matters. We also enjoy a friendly staff that doesn’t mumble or act like we are invisible. And let’s not forget clean bathrooms with the means to dry your hands with towels, paper or cotton.
“The longer I live, the more beautiful life becomes.”Frank Lloyd Wright
The cast of characters we dine with doesn’t rotate much anymore. They are people we share values, history, and interests. Each meal and moment grows more nourishing. Being with people we don’t know leaves us exhausted, while time with people we care for lifts our spirits and energy.
The word “restaurant” comes from the French verb restaurer, “to restore or refresh.” In younger years, getting together with friends for dinner was about being entertained, but now soothed matters more. In different ways, life is hard for all of us. Restaurants shouldn’t be.