Friday, February 13, 2009

Where Shall We Go for Dinner?

I am fortunate that my mother is still living; in fact, she lives with me. As she has gotten older, I see that certain things have become more difficult or challenging for her, and often times for me as well. And lest you think that because I work in the field of aging I cope with her changes any better than the rest of you, think again! It doesn't matter what your job is; if it involves your family, your knowledge and professionalism often just disappear.

One thing that we both enjoy is going out to eat, but it is also an activity that can be incredibly frustrating. Let me illustrate with a recent experience:

We got to the restaurant, and there were actually some handicapped parking spaces available, so we parked. The parking lot had something of an uphill slope, and we had to walk to the end of the walkway to get to the ramp, than up a steep ramp to enter the restaurant. Mom has bad knees, so she had to hang on while we negotiated all this.

Once inside the restaurant, the hostess started to take us all the way to the back of the restaurant, so she obviously did not notice Mom's trouble with mobility. I had to ask if we could sit some place closer to the front, and she was able to accommodate this; not all hostesses will. We received our menus, but the combination of dark, romantic lighting and small print made the menus difficult to read. There was of course music playing, but I can't really say that it was background music. It was front and center music, and because Mom is hard of hearing, it made conversation difficult. I'm not sure when restaurants decided that diners don't need to talk to each other, but I think it coincided with the prevalence of cell phones and blue tooth technology.

The practical result is that there are some restaurants we just don't go to anymore. Many are simply too loud to allow an enjoyable experience. Some only have booths, which are difficult for Mom to slide in and out of. Dining out should be a pleasant experience, but I find it frustrating when I have to analyze every potential restaurant for barriers.

I have a brother who manages a restaurant, and he tells me that he is constantly struggling with the owner over lighting and music volume. I think until we all start doing our part to educate restaurant managers and owners of these issues, and on a constant basis, we won't see much change.

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