In a possible world first, seniors across Queensland are preparing to gather with family and friends to have a state-wide Sunday roast on October 16.
The Largest Sunday Roast initiative, run by Council of the Ageing (COTA) Queensland, is part of the State’s Seniors Month activities and aims to combat social isolation among older members of the community.
With 880,000 seniors calling Queensland home and one in three living alone, the Largest Sunday Roast could have a big impact if the community gets on board.
COTA Queensland Seniors Month Coordinator, Lisa Hodgkinson, said although the world record for the most people eating a Sunday roast at once was set by 1,600 British people in 2009, the idea of gathering over the traditional meal hasn’t been used to connect seniors before.
Ms Hodgkinson adds that as the Largest Sunday Roast is only being held in Queensland for the first time, it will be a “bit of a test year”, with the aim of building it into an annual event – possibly reaching world record proportions in the future.
This month of senior-focused festivities kicks off on October 1, the United Nations International Day of Older Persons.
The roast is only one of many different events being held during Queensland Seniors Month, but it has an important place on the calendar.
“Each year we do these people-powered projects as part of Seniors Month and basically they act as activation activities, so they only happen if people participate in them,” explained Ms Hodgkinson.
“So we’ve done things before – storytelling, mosaics, different art and the like, but we kept coming back to this idea of the beautiful sentiment of coming together over a Sunday roast.
Aged care facilities, service clubs, retirement villages and individuals have all signed on to take part in the initiative, offering everything from a small roast with an older family member to large community tables for people living alone in the community.
Nursing homes are also encouraged to put on a “quality meal” and invite visitors into the facilities to spend time with their loved ones while the roast is served.
The meal provides a chance for people to make meaningful connections with older family members, friends and community members in a way that hasn’t been possible for several years because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We, as humans, are fundamentally wired to want to socially connect with each other, so having families separated and segregated over the past few years has been really hard for some,” said Ms Hodgkinson.
While the food may be the focus, Ms Hodgkinson added it was important to make sure the aged care residents, older neighbours, family members and friends invited had the opportunity to make the meal into something more.
“Put the weather aside and COVID’s no longer the first and foremost bit of conversation. Really look into a person’s eyes, ask them how they’re going and find a common connection,” she said.
“It’s just a really good opportunity to stop and take a breath and just be present.”
Despite the title of ‘Largest Sunday Roast’, Ms Hodgkinson added that the meal doesn’t need to be “bigger than Ben Hur”, and that COTA Queensland has partnered with influential cook Maggie Beer to offer some recipe inspiration.
More details can be found on the Queensland Seniors Month website.
Other States and Territories are holding similar week or month long events for older Australians, including the Victorian Seniors Festival and Tasmanian Seniors Week.