Last updated: February 19. 2013 6:24PM - 429 Views

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DON'T OVERLOOK the one ingredient that can make your Thanksgiving gathering especially memorable this year: good conversation.

Granted, certain families easily banter from the time the bird begins to roast until the last pecan pie plate has been licked clean, washed, dried and re-shelved. Others, however, struggle after the compulsory salutations at the door.

And let's face it, even the most honed of party hosts is up against more daunting challenges these days than in Norman Rockwell's era: all manner of iPhones and electronic gadgets, televised football games and parades, as well as those alluring Black Friday sales and promotions. It can be tough to get everyone to the table, let alone keep them there for more than a few minutes.

Try conversation-starters such as these appearing on the AARP website, which can engage guests of multiple generations:

• I was named after (blank) because (blank).

• My chores growing up were (blank).

• My first crush was on (blank).

• The historical moment I remember best is (blank).

• I am superstitious about (blank).

For more prompting, consider acquiring a game such as Table Topics, which offers multiple editions including its Family Gathering Edition. Among its questions:

• What's the biggest technological change you've seen in your lifetime?

• Would you rather meet your great-grandchildren or your great-grandparents?

• Who in your family met someone famous?

On the subject of family matters, perhaps you should discuss health issues. Since 2004, the U.S. surgeon general has declared Thanksgiving to be National Family History Day. You are encouraged to talk about, and to write down, the health problems that seem to run in the family.

Tracing the illnesses suffered by your parents, grandparents, and other blood relatives can help your doctor predict the disorders to which you may be at risk and take action to keep you and your family healthy, according to this federal government website: www.hhs.gov/familyhistory.

Regardless of what you, your friends and loved ones discuss during the holiday, try to keep the dialogue civil and good for the soul – the kind of conversation that compels people to want to return for second helpings of it.

Open a dialogue

• Read AARP's Thanksgiving Story Starters. Visit www.aarp.org/relationships/friends-family/info-11-2011/thanksgiving-story-starters.html.

• Check out the game called Table Topics. Go to www.tabletopics.com/Family-Gathering-Edition-Cube.

• Learn about the U.S. surgeon general's initiative known as Family History Day. See www.hhs.gov/familyhistory.

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