Few things in life bring people together quite like a meal.

It has long been acknowledged that sitting down and eating with someone is virtually the perfect way to break down barriers and build lines of communication. This is, in part, the concept behind the Generations Over Dinner initiative.

Created by the Modern Elder Academy, these shared meals offer opportunities for people of different ages to sit down and learn from one another.

“Generations Over Dinner is an open concept that anyone can adapt to their situation,” explained Sarah Davis, Americorps VISTA Program Director for Successfully Aging and Living in San Antonio (SALSA), a program of the San Antonio Area Foundation.

“It’s meant to bring three to five generations of people together around a dinner table to break bread and share in a meaningful conversation on specific topics,” David said. “It’s a mutual benefit to really open the eyes and hear [different] perspectives.”

For older adults, these type of events can serve another purpose. Social connectedness – the feeling that a person belongs and has support as well a diverse number of relationships – is recognized as impacting mental and physical health.

It becomes an even greater concern as we age. For many older adults, a lack of social interaction can lead to sharply declining health conditions. SALSA has put into motion plans to bring Generations Over Dinner to the Alamo City in an effort to foster better social connections.

“I’ve been involved with the Modern Elder Academy for the past six years,” shared Pat Whitty, who also works with the Area Foundation’s AmeriCorps VISTA program and someone who has first-hand experience with the dinners.

“The idea was what if we could bring as many of generations together over dinner in a guided conversation, that would give each person at the table the opportunity to be seen. So many people today tell us they feel invisible, especially older people,” Whitty said.

Often, generational gaps prevent these types of conversations from happening organically. The dinners bring a facilitator to each group to ensure the conversations move forward, that everyone is heard, and that the dinner proves to be a worthwhile undertaking for everyone involved.

“No one is supposed to offer advice, and everyone is told to listen,” Whitty said. “That’s how barriers get broken down.”

The effort will be moving forward during May, recognized as Older Americans Month across the country. Putting to use its network of 50+ nonprofit partners, SALSA hopes to easily fill out these dinners and ensure a memorable experience for everyone involved.

“Depending on the space, we envision our dinners to be two tables of eight people,” Davis said. “It’s a lot of work to get the various ages represented. I think once they try it, they’ll understand. We’re hoping eventually to have a wait list. We’re excited to get this going!”

Interested in learning more about SALSA and perhaps contributing to the effort? Just click here.

Eric Moreno is a member of the San Antonio Area Foundation Storytelling Ambassadors Contributor Network.