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by Abigail Van Buren

Elf's Helpful Hints Ease Kids' First Visit to Santa

DEAR ABBY: I'm a retired waitress who worked for years in a family restaurant. Many elderly people would come in alone, and I could see they were hungry for conversation as well as food, so I'd talk to them as much as possible.

As the restaurant became more crowded, I had less time to chat, so I set up a table for four and asked the seniors if they might like to sit at the "senior table." So many of the customers said yes that it turned into a table for 12!

It would be great if restaurants would set up senior tables so everyone could have a dinner partner if they wanted to visit. It's also a great way to make new friends. Now that I'm a senior myself I notice a lot of us sit alone, watching families enjoy being together. -- KATHY IN BREMERTON, WASH.

DEAR KATHY: You're a sweet and compassionate woman. A few years ago I heard about some restaurants here in Los Angeles offering a "community dining" table for singles -- but they were intended to help young singles mingle. Your idea of a table for solo seniors is a good one, and I hope restaurateurs agree and give it a try. Food tastes better when it's seasoned with good fellowship.