Going Out To Eat
After being cooped up for months as part of the COVID-19 stay-at-home order, just about everyone is eager to get out of the house and back to some semblance of normal. Few things can create this feeling of normalcy quite like going out to your favorite restaurant for a great meal. With restaurants opening up again for dine-in service, that option is on the table once more. But is going out to eat safe for seniors, or should older adults steer clear of the restaurant scene for the foreseeable future?
While seniors are among the most at-risk populations for COVID-19, that doesn’t necessarily mean they need to stay in their homes until a vaccine arrives. In northern Michigan, case numbers have been relatively low since the beginning of the pandemic and have not spiked significantly since the stay-at-home order lifted. Restaurants, in particular, are likely to be a fairly low-risk place for seniors to visit. As a baseline, food service establishments are held to higher standards of cleanliness, sanitization, and other health precautions than most other businesses. Because of COVID-19, those standards have been ratcheted up to the next level.
Furthermore, many of the changes that restaurants have had to make because of COVID-19 are actually fairly senior-friendly. For instance, when they go out to eat, older adults often struggle with the loud, crowded spaces. There might not be enough space for them to navigate the restaurant comfortably, or there might be so many people (and so many conversations happening concurrently) that senior struggle to hear their waiters or dining partners. COVID-19 restrictions have restaurants operating at reduced capacities, which means seniors can go out to eat and enjoy more space and less noise.
Of course, there are still precautions that seniors should take if they are thinking about spending an hour or two out at their favorite restaurant. If you don’t feel well, skip the restaurant trip (and consider contacting your healthcare provider instead). While you are out in public, wear a mask to minimize your chances of contracting the virus or getting someone else sick. At the restaurant, you’ll want to keep the mask on while entering the business, interacting with the host or hostess, and getting seated. Once you are seated at your table, you can remove the mask for your meal, but put it back on before you go. Finally, make sure to wash or sanitize your hands before eating!
Ultimately, the reduced capacities and extra safety precautions at restaurants might make now the perfect time for seniors to enjoy a meal out. However, remember that, because of the capacity limitations, restaurants can’t accommodate as many people as they could before the pandemic. Walk-ins especially may be difficult, so consider calling ahead and making a reservation to ensure the smoothest experience possible. For best results, you might also aim for a weekday outing, given that summer tourist crowds are still visiting northern Michigan (and packing its restaurants) on the weekends.
Our last piece of advice? Tip generously! Restaurants are struggling right now, and many of their employees have been off work for months. One great tip can make a waiter or bartender’s day.