On the evening of April 25, eleven people made their way through the bloom-filled walkways at the Botanical Gardens into a room holding a colorful table set for a dinner party. These men and women, ranging in age from 22 to 87 years old, were not attending just any dinner party. They were guests at the inaugural FEAST gathering.  FEAST is part of a programmatic effort by the Partnerships in Aging Program to create intentional space for intergenerational conversations and connections. In a town where students live, work, and play on campus, and many retirees do the same in their own spaces, this dinner party with a purpose aims to bring the two populations together for one special evening. FEAST fosters connections and encourages meaningful dialog through the sharing of food and guided conversation around a universal topic. The theme for this evening’s FEAST was ‘Celebration.’

FEAST guests at the North Carolina Botanical Garden. Photo credit: Carol Gunther-Mohr.

After introductions and informal conversation, the guests were asked to share a story or two about a memorable celebration. The conversation wound its way through jubilant stories of travel and weddings to a touching tale of a music-filled 50th anniversary gathering. Though the stories were vastly different, themes of family, joy, and the congregating of loved ones emerged. One guest told of her 1,200-mile canoe trip taken when journeys were made with paper maps and compasses.  Several guests shared reflections on the way celebrations can be woven into events typically associated with grief or courage. We heard about memorial services, remembrance traditions, and coming out.  Story after story about celebrations of love and loss opened a window into the memory of another person around the table until, much too soon, the evening came to an end. Tearful hugs were exchanged and genuine invitations to join groups and swap recipes wafted through the crisp night air as the guests slowly made their way back through the moonlit gardens.

The table, now empty, will be set again in the fall when FEAST officially embarks on its unique, dynamic, and delicious intergenerational journey with Folks of Every Age who want to Share the Table.