Planning a party for an 80-year-old, or for mostly elderly guests, may appear to be a challenge. However, many themes appropriate for younger partygoers can work for octogenarians if you made a few adjustments. Combine simple games that can be played at the table with more spirited activities that those who can't participate can watch and enjoy. Balance the menu so there are simple foods among the spicier, more exotic fare. Decorate with lots of colour for a lively atmosphere. And for 80th birthdays, don't emphasise the past so much that tomorrow seems like an afterthought.
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The Times of Our Lives
This theme works whether the guests are elderly or all age levels. If the 80-year-old is the focus of the party, invite guests to wear hats from a favourite period that features a treasured memory of the guest-of-honour. This provides guests with a broad selection of eras that are meaningful to them as well. Each guest can share recollections about the honoree with the group and explain the memory his hat represents. For a general party of older guests, each can choose a hat that symbolises one of his own favourite times. For decorations, hang calendar pages spanning the last eight decades; make them up yourself on the computer or buy vintage illustrated calendars from flea markets and antique malls. Cutouts of clock faces of various sizes are another option, or incorporate old watches and clocks into table centrepieces. Offer trivia contests or "name that tune" games as entertainment.
Mexican Fiesta Time
Even if an 80-year-old doesn't feel up to swinging at a pinata or dancing, she can shake a maraca and wear a sombrero. Decorate with lots of bright colours, including paper garlands and papel picado (perforated paper) banners in rainbow shades. If party guests fall into a range of ages, stage plenty of games and activities, from pinatas to the Mexican hat dance, that are equally fun whether watching or participating. Offer food in a Mexican-style buffet, but include easier-to-digest options for guests who have trouble with spicy food. If the 80-year-old is celebrating a birthday, serve a Mexican chocolate cake.
This theme works especially well for an 80-year-old's birthday celebration. Instead of focusing solely on the person's past, build the party around all the new experiences the honoree still has to look forward to. Start by discovering if there's a kind of celebration the guest-of-honour has never attended; this could be anything from a fondue dinner to a kid-style party at a game arcade with a costumed character as the host. Throw exactly that kind of party for the honoree--a new experience. Plan decorations, food and activities around the style of the chosen party. Continue the theme by telling guests to choose gifts that represent a new activity or interest for the guest-of-honour: a book she's never read, tickets to a play or movie she's never seen, a gift token for a restaurant unfamiliar to her. Make it clear the gift includes company and transportation for the new experience if she requires them. If she's active and really open to adventure, enrol her in a class to learn a new skill, or everyone can contribute toward an all-expenses-paid trip to a destination she's always wanted to visit.
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