Elderly love–Desire too

HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAYHAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY

What is it that’s so endearing about seeing an old couple holding hands, walking arm in arm, smiling at each other in that certain way?

Is it what each one of us hopes for when we hit the old age mark?

I remember my birthday party some years ago. It was a small dinner party with close family and friends–a mix of ages from my infant niece to three elders–late 80’s-mid-90’s.

We sat around a large table in a hotel’s small private dining room. When the meal was winding down, I asked a question of the older guests. It was something like: “What would you tell us younger people that we should know, but might not be aware of?”

The oldest guest, my friend’s mother in her 90’s (the lady I took to lunch at a bar for her 100th birthday) shared: “I may be old, but Inside I feel like I did when I was an 18-year-old (pause) with all the same desires too.”

It’s so easy to forget that inside an old body can be a young-feeling heart.

With wishes that we can help aging parents and the elders we care about
find that young spot in their hearts this Valentine’s Day.
From Help! Aging Parents

Special Sweets are Valentine’s Treats for Seniors and Elders

 Three Scrumptious Treats: Middle Eastern, French, American
Mouthwatering Middle Eastern Pastries from Michigan

Mouth-watering Middle Eastern Pastries from Michigan

 Many older people, seniors and aging parents, appreciate smaller portions and small tasty bites–shunning the big meals and all-you-can-eat excesses of their younger years. Metabolisms change, dietary issues develop but let’s face it, a sweet treat now and then lifts spirits. If not on Valentine’s Day—-when?
1.  Shatila’s Middle Eastern Pastries. A thoughtful guest brought a tray of the smallest baklava all the way from Michigan to last Sunday’s Super Bowl party. The little beauties–the smallest baklava I’ve ever seen–walnut, pistachio and–I believe–almond were heavenly–a bite or two. Perfect. Assuming that eating nuts and honey isn’t a problem, I can’t think of an edible Valentine gift aging parents and elders we care about would enjoy more.
2. Laduree, famous for their macaroons, opened a small shop on Madison Ave. in NY 3+ years ago. Lines were around the block and the small space continues to be crowded every time I’ve gone by. They now have a branch in lower Manhattan (Soho).
     While pricey their fillings are incomparable. Phone #s and addresses in above link. I don’t know whether they ship, but if you’re in NY or Paris it’s worth a special stop.

3. Bissingir’s (St. Louis, Mo.) and Harbor Sweets (Salem, Mass) make delicious chocolates. Sr. Advisor R loves the Sweet Sloops (gold box w/small sail boats–sloops) at right.
     With time running out, I rush to add these small, dessert sweets and chocolates–a guaranteed win with the elders on Valentine’s Day,….or on any other occasion.

Check out “Newsworthy” (right sidebar). Links to timely information and research from top universities and respected professionals, plus practical information–to help parents age well. Continue reading

Choosing the Best Walker–101-year-old, Aging in Place: Mobility Continues 4 years After Broken Hip Surgery

The “Best” Walker is the Right Walker
(and can change as needs change)

The right cane and the right walker empower elders, enabling them to continue their routines as before. Reduced mobility, on the other hand, is obviously not empowering, creates neediness, and can lead to less contacts with others–not helpful in aging well independently and not helpful to us if we’re caring adult children.

Having the right “tools” makes everything easier–for any situation actually. (Learned this in a “Home Repair” course; found it a truism.) It’s not rocket science that an easy-to-use, dependable walker is the right “tool” to continue mobility and an active life.

But do we realize that the first walker purchased may not be the ultimate walker? Here’s why–

1. We often select quickly (possibly the one used in rehab).
2. We often select the least expensive.
3. Subsequent factors, like balance and aging parent stability may lead to buying a studier walker.

We see many people using light weight walkers with 4 legs, tennis balls or skis on the back legs. Click link to physical therapists’ video before purchasing. It discusses important limitations (ie. light weight compromises stability. It must be picked up every time a step is taken). The research, time and money to purchase a walker that fits needs and gives parents’ confidence is well-spent.

Our first trip to the surgical supply store after R’s release from rehab yielded two walkers: a basic one with front wheels and skis on back legs, and a more expensive, heavier walker with wheels, skis on back legs and a basket/seat (which she never used).

R used the basic walker in the house…until her cane arrived three days later. Basic walker went into the garage. R says once you’ve fallen you need to feel safe when you walk. Ever since rehab, her cane has given her complete confidence to walk…until a year ago. Then serious vision problems began  affecting her balance and confidence. “Bit by bit, then more and more” she used that basic walker from the garage. Last spring she needed a new walker.

Why and how it’s used–

R wanted a tray attached to her walker, but her walker wasn’t compatible with existing ones. Thus, a new walker, with tray, was purchased . According to R it’s less wide (thus more comfortable), very sturdy and weighs less. The skis on the back legs and wheels on the front work fine on carpets. R only uses it in the house. When she goes out she always uses her cane. She feels safe with that.

She switched to her current walker, this Guardian Signature walker plus extras: the front wheels (attachments): $66.75; the back legs’ ski glides: $15; attached fold-down tray: $39.95. 2014 total: $131.80 

While not covered by Medicare, it’s “worth every penny,” according to her. (She still does her own finances.)

The tray is used daily–for moving food from oven to table, refrig to oven, delivered things to kitchen, bedroom etc. Also, R still has easy-care leafy green plants that need watering. She likes taking these plants to the kitchen sink, but holding a cane and carrying a potted plant doesn’t happen! Her current walker with the 2 recessed holes filled a need.

A friend in her 70’s, who had polio as a child, has purchased countless walkers over decades. She now prefers rollators–walkers with 4 wheels, which make them very sturdy and easy to to use inside and outdoors. (I’d never heard the term before speaking with her.)

Rollators come with seats, baskets, trays, cup-holders and various other options.  She has one for indoors which has different “amenities” than the collapsable one used for going out. The latter has a fold-up seat, offering a place to sit if needed, but no tray. It’s less heavy, making it easier to lift into/out of the car. (Grandkids love to sit on it, she tells me.) That said, I know adult children who don’t like taking parents out because it entails lifting a collapsable walker. Do they need lessons?

My friend says four wheels plus good brake handles are very important if the walker is to be used out of the house (think uneven pavement and inclines). Over the years she has purchased walkers on line or through catalogs and some at stores like CVS and Walgreens, where they “fit” the walker to your measurements. The right height is extremely important. Note walkers for shorter and taller people when checking “Related” below for rollator options. (Site selected because of the excellent pictures and information.)

Great gift: Family members contribute to the purchase the right walker. For seniors who are trying desperately to maintain their independence and age in place, the right walker helps parents age well. It clearly has for R.

Related: Rollator models
              Very good video, excellence hints by 2 physical therapists: Walkers: Wheeled vs Standard

Check out “Newsworthy” (right sidebar). Links to timely information and research from top universities and respected professionals, plus practical information–to help parents age well.

Aging Parents: Gifts That Look Great!

They say “It’s what’s inside that counts.” No argument here. That said, doesn’t anything that looks great on the outside raise our spirits…and those of our elders?

Two gift-giving holidays are fast-approaching. I think of the value of extra nicely wrapped gifts–where the initial fun is seeing them, followed by the joy of discovering what’s inside. Again this year, the Garden Section of our Woman’s Club has purchased gift items and wrapped them attractively–always making sure they contain some plant material (nothing artificial).

Three days ago they were on display, lining one side of the main room at the Holiday Open House. Some are above, once again ready to be taken to a nearby nursing home the next day. The Club member, who has always headed this project and transports the gifts to the nursing home, reports that the patients “light up” when they see the carts filled with these packages come through the door.

The stuffed dog has its nose in the air, while the list of contents in the adjoining basket looks you right in the eye.

All gifts are on the approved nursing home list, since we don’t know the recipients. Note list in photo at right. The pine cone with red bow counts as plant material. (Click once or twice to enlarge photo.)

Of course when gifts are for parents and friends, the only rules for gifts are those you set. Tins of hot chocolate and boxes of cookies and candy aren’t off limits. Additionally you know their wants and needs.

Cellophane makes baskets and open boxes look great! Putting it over a basket with a bow or ornament at the top converts a plain basket of gifts into a professional-looking showpiece.

Ditto for today’s colorful Christmas bags….just gently twist red or green tissue paper around the gift(s) and put it or them in the bag. Use tape and wrap gifts in the traditional way if you wish. But it’s not necessary with the decorative bag.

This year I learned lining a box–inside and out with holiday paper–is easy, requiring just a scissors and scotch tape plus the paper. And placing wrapped or unwrapped gifts inside makes a wonderful display–no top needed (below). Cellophane around the box and over the top, tied at the top, is an option (but not necessary).

I

Sometimes it’s the little things that ignite the spark of joy. A few extra minutes to buy tissue, cellophane, bags and ribbon can bring added excitement to aging parents and elders we care about, whether living independently or in a nursing home. As the letter Garden Sections members received years ago reminds us:

Dear Ladies,
My nice little plant is doing very nicely and is happy.  The Christmas tray and notepaper plus pens are a wonderful gift. We are all very appreciative of all the goodies you sent to us. You make our holidays much more exciting. We are old and sick, not dead. I hope you all know that your thoughtfulness is appreciated.
 My Christmas basket from last year still decorates my room.
Thank you and God Bless.
VM

Aging Parents’ Advent Calendar of 24 small gifts

Doesn’t a small gift a day sound like a way to continually brighten up the holiday season for older people? Whether living at home or in a care center, don’t we all love a gift! Here’s my list of easily purchased, inexpensive Christmas or Chanukah gifts, keeping in mind:

Most older people
–don’t like clutter.
–don’t want what they don’t need.
–appreciate gifts they use up.

special bottled drink

Most gifts can be eaten or used up–but not all. Purchase them in any order as the inspiration hits! And definitely click links to anything on the list. Click photos to enlarge.   Think DECEMBER–

Battery-powered candle

$3.99 bouquet-Trader Joe’s

 1. Wide rubber band*
 2. Box of candy
 3. Music
 4. Snow globe
 5. Lottery ticket
 6. Miniature Christmas tree
 7. Personalized Coffee Mug
 8. Box of instant cocoa or special tea bags
 9. Box of cookies
10. Bouquet of flowers**
11. Postage stamps (for sending Chanukah or Christmas cards)
12. December magazine focused on their interests
13. Manageable-size holiday door wreath
21. Lightweight throw blanket
14. Framed photo of family
15. Small succulent needing little care (Red Kalanchoe)
16. Bottle: wine, beer, sparkling water, flavored water
17. New lipstick for woman/new socks for man
18. Battery-powered flickering candle
19. Small basket of favorite fruit
20. Hand or after-shave lotion
21. 2015 Calendar–(personalized from Shutterfly?)                                                                      

Red Kalanchoe-Green container

Red Kalanchoe-Green container

The last 3 days–repeat a previously winning idea: lottery ticket? cookies? something to drink (hot or cold)? flowers? fruit? candy? Your inspiration will raise the spirits of aging parents and elders we care about…and help them age well.

IMG_3628

Battery-powered flickering candle at night

Related:

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

*The rubber band is the best gift for unscrewing jar and bottle caps (older people’s hands are weaker) and it’s free! (See photo at right, showing 2 rubber bands–pink one at work!)

**Trader Joe’s $3.99 bouquet of flowers (without vase). Didn’t use all the flowers in the original bouquet to do this arrangement. A bargain for flower lovers.

Note: Definition–Oxford Dictionaries: ad·vent  noun: advent; plural noun: advents
1. the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event.
2. the coming or second coming of Christ

Today’s post takes the place of Tuesday’s. I’ll be flying cross country then.

Check out “Newsworthy” (right sidebar). Links to timely information and research from top universities and respected professionals, plus practical information–to help parents age well.

Terrariums: Easy Care Live Plants in Little Landscapes–Easily Made, Great Gifts..

Terrarium–
1.
 “
a glass container, chiefly or wholly enclosed, for growing and displaying plants”

Once planted, if enclosed, there’s next-to-no upkeep.
Note: Click all terrarium pics to enlarge
I was given the airtight, octagon terrarium (above) decades ago after an illness. I loved it. It needed very little care. Its plastic octagonal bottom contained small plants and its octagonal top lifts off when they need water or cutting back. Ultimately one plant got too tall. I took it out and easily replaced it with a tiny fern purchased at a landscape nursery. It transplanted easily and stayed small, aided by the humid environment. What a perfect gift for young and old. I was hooked.
Fittonia and ficus pumila quercifolia. Click or double-click for up close with frog and bottles

Click or double-click for up-close view of fittonia, ficus pumila quercifolia, frog, and bottles.

30+ years later only one (tall) plant remains. It has grown well with fittonia (striped leaf) and ficus pumila quercifolia (miniature oak leaf fig) for many years. I just cut back some fittonia before taking this picture. Terrarium needs little care beyond receiving small amounts of water a few time a year and some cutting back with a small scissors. Fittonia  leaves are all less than an inch; ficus leaves even smaller.

Since then I’ve made countless terrariums in varied containers–including this little hinged-roof, leaded greenhouse (made by a retired NJ policeman I was told) and purchased at a local nursery. Not for beginners; it’s not airtight.
Greenhouse terrarium with hinged roof (click to enlarge)

Click to enlarge. Flowering plants–sinningias pusilla and white sprite. Clay pots suck moisture– need added water and watching so they don’t dry out.

Creating an environment with small plants–for relaxation, for friends, and for older people in care centers at holiday time is fun–becomes addictive. The greenhouse terrarium won many “BEST” awards at spring flower shows (with more flowering plants in little pots than shown above). Interestingly maintaining little plants in a terrarium requires less work than a non-terrarium single plant–and delights onlookers (and judges).
PURCHASING PLANTS for Enclosed Terrariums
Smallish, slow-growing plants that like high humidity are a must–when the goal is easy/minimum care for aging parents and older people. Once planted and watered, they have no other watering needs because they create their own environment if their lid/top/plastic wrap is on tight. Only when plants are grown in something big like a covered fish tank, can regular-size plants be used.
Once planted, a terrarium is good to go–no upkeep– except occasional water (plants will look droopy) and pruning. Covered terrariums can’t tolerate direct sunlight. Heat hitting the glass (or plastic) will immediately bake (and kill) the plants. ‘Nuf said.
You can purchase terrariums or….
                                                                       MAKE YOUR OWN
Any dish or glass-enclosed vessel is fair game as a planter. I found a great glass piece at TJ Maxx for $5 because its top was missing. I turned it into a terrarium by wrapping plastic wrap over the top opening to keep it airtight.

Supplies are simple. The soil is simple potting soil (no added fertilizer, the idea is to keep things small). If deciding to fertilize, 1/4-1/8 strength of recommended amount, once in spring, will do it. I often forget; the plants don’t seem to notice and the flowering ones still bloom.

While I don’t use moss, many people do as pictured in the carefully-selected links below and this Philadelphia Flower Show entry above left. I often add little rocks, wood, and glass or pottery objects. I also line the container’s bottom with charcoal (see links below ). Someone said “it keeps the soil sweet.” I don’t know precisely what that means but it works I guess. Container, charcoal, soil, plants, water, light (but no direct sun) and lid/top does it. How simple is that!

Before the holidays, before the time crunch, why not make or purchase a terrarium? Older people, especially, are enchanted by these little creations. Nature is restorative. Watching these manageable little gardens grow and bloom keeps everyone interested….. and that helps parents age well.
Related:
Fittonia (red stripe) link: http://www.logees.com/browse-by-botanical-name/fittonia/nerve-plant-super-red-fittonia-verschaffeltii.htmlLogees has a fine reputation and excellent (often hard-to-find) plants. They advise if plants do well in terrariums. (I don’t have this variety.)
http://www.stormthecastle.com/terrarium/terrarium-plants.htmlvery complete, good instructions
http://www.thenester.com/2012/04/using-plants-in-your-home-part-4-terrariums.html–an especially excellent site for everything.
https://www.sprouthome.com/terrariums/ terrarium ideas–expensive; but check pictures. You can make them for much less
Commercial presentation: terrarium designs, purchasing. Beter planting instructions above.  http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/diy-or-buy-terrarium-167979-
http://www.stormthecastle.com/terrarium/where-to-buy-micro-mini-sinningia.htm  Scroll way down for purchasing info and photos of sinningias (White Sprite and Pusilla seen in greenhouse terrarium above). 

Aging Parents: Little-Care Live Plant Gifts –flowering or not

 

Dish Garden with Succulents

Click to enlarge

DISH GARDENS
Dish gardens make great gifts–easy upkeep with the right plants.

I began making dish gardens in elementary school, which speaks to how easy creating these small landscapes is…. easy to make, easy to maintain with easy-care plants. And they add enjoyment…fun to watch grow and possibly flower. AND  they add a decorator’s touch, regardless of decorating style. Aren’t they a good gift for older people who appreciate nature, don’t get outdoors much–and even those who do? You can purchase a dish garden, or do-it-yourself.

WHETHER PURCHASING OR MAKING YOUR OWN– LOOK FOR
(and ask questions of sales person)

  • Plants that are smallish
  • Plants that are slow growing (if the goal is reducing work)
  • Plants with different textured leaves
  • Plants with leaves of different colors
  • At least one plant that could flower (it’s a bonus)
  • Plants the grow either indoor or outdoors…not both in same container
  • An attractive container (dish) with a drainage hold and saucer

CARE
(Light and Watering Requirements Should be on Plant’s Tag)

  • Watering nonuscculents: Proper watering leads to success or failure.Thus, each plant in the little garden should have the same water requirements. Overwatering causes root rot, that’s why the dish’s drainage hole is important–as is a plate or saucer underneath. Otherwise furniture gets damaged (and equally bad, you will have left an eyesore remainder of your well-intentioned gift.) My favorite “saucers” are free–lids on plastic take-home containers. They’re clear, unobtrusive, come in various shapes and sizes.
  • Watering succulents: Succulents (see top photo), needs very little water. A light spray on the top or a little water poured on the rocks doesn’t upset the sandy look and does the job. Succulents store water in their “leaves.” They begin to shrivel when too dry, but rebound when give a bit of water. The easiest dish garden– any adult can monitor a succulent dish garden and add water before a disaster could occur.
  • Light: Plants should also be grouped by their light requirement–full sun, partial sun etc. To flower, plants need light. For example, miniature violets and sinningias need indirect light at the least, but never full sun.

DO-IT-YOURSELF
See above for plant selection

The two dish gardens below were entered for competition at the Philadelphia Flower Show. The first container is a bonsai dish with indoor plants; the one below looks like it contains outdoor succulents and is, I believe, made from a composite.

IMG_1055

Pink/green leaf plant is fittonia, I believe. More common is green and white leaf color.

Dish Garden

Succulents and ???

  • Dish gardens can sprout up in unlikely dishes.
  • As long as there’s a drainage hole, you’re good to go.
  • Potting soil for cacti and succulents differs from soil used for leafy plants.
  • For Fertilizing:   follow instructions, using 1/2 or 1/4 strength or less.
  • Avoid potting soil with fertilizer or plants will quickly outgrow the dish.

Caring for plants, if not too taxing and fussy, gives elders a responsibility that offers the joy of watching them grow, keeping them healthy and being needed. It’s also fun and life-affirming. Doesn’t this help parents and older adults age well?
Related: Thanks to Lori for an additional way of growing plants–the Miracle-Gro Aero Garden.This hydroponic garden seems easy from start to finish–can add interest and fun to an elder’s life.

Check out Some of my favorite little plants: Sinningia pusilla (tiny tuber).Rob’s Scrumptious (miniature violet). Ficus pumila Quercifolia (tiny ivy). Nephrolepis exalta  Fluffy Ruffles (little fern). Kalanchoe (check out colors)

Helpful sites: http://www.thegardenhelper.com/dish~gardens.html –about dish gardens
https://www.violetbarn.com/shop/index.php?_a=category&cat_id=30. Site for small plants

Red Kalanchoe-Green container

Red Kalanchoe~Green Container

Note: Newsworthy (right sidebar). Links to timely information and research from top universities and medical institutions–to help parents age well.