Aging Parents: Gifts–Great and Therapeutic for Elders



Are aging parents and elders we care about bored?
Feeling unneeded? Lacking purpose?

At holiday time or any time easy-care plants are excellent and inexpensive gifts for combatting boredom, and/or feeling useless and unneeded. Caring for plants enhances lives. No kidding! If in doubt, see the 809,000 results of googling college horticulture therapy major.  Or read, from Oregon State U’s catalog:

Horticultural therapy is recognized as a practical and effective treatment with wide-ranging benefits for people in therapeutic, vocational, and wellness programs…now taught and practiced….in… mental health, physical rehabilitation..long-term care and hospice.

Here’s the update and the lowdown that may inspire giving easy-care, living plants–in some form–to aging parents and elders who live at home or in care facilities.

IMG_2902While most of us wouldn’t hire a horticultural therapist for our parents, gifting a plant provides some of the benefits. There’s a responsibility factor, the feeling of being needed, and satisfaction from watching a plant grow, produce new leaves, and possibly flower.

Example: Sr. Advisor R’s responsibility to her plants ran deep. She figured out how to continue to care for her plants as she aged. She used her walker. It carried the plants on its tray to her kitchen sink or carried a pitcher of water, in its recessed hole, to water the plants until the day she died at 101.

R was aware of every new leaf and kept each plant looking perfect. She also had philodendrons happily growing in containers of water or potted in soIMG_0254il. They were like her babies.

Easy-care plant options for elders

1. The snake plant adds decor–you can’t miss it. It survives neglect–just needs watering now and then…when soil dries out. My brother was given one, by friends who know him well, as a house-warming gift. It filled an empty corner. He loves it. It’s the only plant he has–waters it “once a month–maybe.” OK–it’s a succulent…and a tough plant to kill.

2. I planted a dish garden of succulents in Arizona–kept outside on a paDish Garden with Succulentstio with an overhang so it doesn’t get drenched when it rains. Because the bottom has no drainage holes (not a good idea for novices), it’s checked and given a bit of water every 2-3 weeks…when the succulent “leaves” show signs of shriveling.

All my other succulents are in pots and dish gardens–inside and outdoors–and have drainage holes.  All they need is light and, when the soil is completely dry, a good watering that drains out. Succulents take the same care/abuse as the snake plant.

Watching dish gardens of succulents or leafy plants  grow–and change, adds interest to life, especially when they flower. IMG_1056This rock garden was exhibited at the Philadelphia Flower Show.

3.  Terrariums: The open-terrarium below in the footed glass container was on the counter by thIMG_2709e sinks in the ladies’ room at a restaurant near the Philadelphia Flower Show. Horticulture seems contagious in Philadelphia–whether in the Convention Center or in surrounding venues. Being careful not to overwater is paramount as there’s no drainage.

Closed terrariums, on the other hand, are truly easy care. Plants grow in any nonporous container as long as it’s covered so as to be airtight. (Closed terrarium plants thrive in humidity and NO direct sun.)

This IMG_4800flowering prismatacarpa begonia in a brandy snifter, is from a cutting taken 5 months ago. A round piece of glass scotch-taped on top (cut at a store that replaces window panes) prevents drying out.  Plastic wrap works also, but doesn’t look as nice.

Click here for details and pictures of the following:
4. Christmas Cactus
5.  Golden Pothos
6.  Philodendron
7.  Syngonium
8.  Wandering Jew
+ 9. Oxallis
10. Bromilliad
11. Spathiphyllum  are featured in Related posts below.

As Thanksgiving, Christmas and Chanukah approach and we think gifts for older people, especially those living alone, aren’t “living plants” an appealing choice?

Note: Prismatacarpa begonia: a flowering favorite and described as a “small plant [that] proves mighty in its propensity for being nearly always in bloom” requires humidity. It grows in sphagnum moss–the soft kind (not the scratchy,”prickery” kind) in closed terrariums and seldom gets dry–but when it does (leaves begin to wilt), add a teaspoon of water.

Related:  Live Plants in Little Landscapes –Terrariums
                 Easy-Care Plants for Aging Parents
                 Aging Parents: Little-care, Live Plants, Gifts–Flowering or Not 

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Aging Grandmothers, Mothers, Younger Women: Public Bathroom Problems

Outsmarting a Disgusting Public Bathroom

Val Grubb’s travel bog’s post will probably resonate with women who’ve waited impatiently in a line for the Ladies’ Restroom, only to enter a vacated stall that’s disgusting. How many times have we found ourselves in the situation of these millennials? They’re at a club (click: short video belowso well done). And guys….. How often have you waited for the woman you’re with because her bathroom line is always so much longer than the line for the Men’s Room?! Now you’ll know one reason.

Aging mothers like my mother–as well as younger women–can slow the line as they try to make the best of an unacceptable, toilet-paper-and/or-seat-cover-deficient stall. Pee Pocket or KleenGo to the rescue  ….seriously!

This product, a portable, foldable, disposable funnel, no doubt comes in handy when camping or for those traveling and needing to use bathrooms in less-developed countries. (I do remember China.)

It’s a unique (to say the least) Christmas-stocking-stuffer possibility for a woman– traveler or not–or simply a gift for a close friend. And, if we have aging mothers, it may simply save everyone time and frustration… if it’s in our purse.

I haven’t tried it yet. While I don’t think it’s as useful as the rubber band I’ve often written about for opening jars and tight lids, for some it could be a strong contender!

 If it makes life easier for aging women…doesn’t it help them age well?

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Check out “Newsworthy” (right sidebar). Links to timely tips, information and research from top universities. respected professionals and selected publications–to help parents age well. Especially note Mayo Clinic free webinar 11/17/15 on holiday stress. Noon Central Time. Click link in sidebar to learn more and register for webinar.

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Gifting Easily-decorated Halloween Pumpkins with Flowers and Whimsey Lifts Spirits of Aging Parents and Care Center Elders

IMG_46312015 Pumpkins for Elders

Pumpkins with interesting stems and the potential for whimsey make uplifting October gifts.

And once again they’ve been given to older people this past week, the oldest being 97-year-old J.

He and his (now deceased) wife were inspiration for the first pumpkin I decorated in 2010.  They were having health issues and when I saw the lopsided pumpkin (photo below), the outcast, relegated to the unpopular side of the bin–I wondered who would buy it. Then I realized it could bring a smile if filled with chrysanthemums…and immediately I thought of J and his wife. .

It was a medium-size pumpkin. I quickly drove it home and put it on the kitchen counter, thinking I’d cut off the top, put a plastic container inside and fill it with water and flowers. However visualizing the lopsidedness and not wanting to discard the stem, sparked another idea: Why not poke holes in it, carefully push chrysanthemum stems into the holes, and see how it looks.

2010 Pumpkin

2010 Pumpkin

I purchased Trader Joe’s chrysanthemum bouquet ($3.99), took ivy from the yard, and bought little scarecrows at Michael’s ($1.50 I think). The 2010 pumpkin lasted over 2 weeks I was told.

Since we’ve now moved to NYC and use public transportation, I bought small pumpkins this year, the little pie pumpkins, because they’re easier to transport.

I focused on size and long stems, not realizing, until I read in Mayo Clinic’s Nutrition-wise Blog:”Pumpkin Trivia–10 facts about this fall favorite, that these little pumpkins are sweeter but have less water inside than the larger ones bred for carving. I immediately understood why the larger pumpkins lasted two weeks (stems must suck up the liquid inside).

Because there”s less liquid in the little pumpkins, I squirted some water in the holes before poking in stems, hoping to make up for the lost moisture. And since there are alway left-over flowers, I left extras at J’s this year. All should last a week without having to add extra flowers. (I’ll post an update on that in a few weeks.) Next year I’ll buy carving variety pumpkins, looking for the smallest.

Four pumpkins were decorated. The one at the top is J’s. The three below went to women ages 70-90.  (Click photos–except 2010 photo–to enlarge)

IMG_4720When we can put smiles on elders’ faces, we’re adding a bit to help them age well, aren’t we?


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

Related: Click “Halloween Posts” tab under header above for past posts and photos

Aging Parents: Cleaning Out Their Home After Death–The Plus-side

Past posts about cleaning out my parents’ home–basically alone–after they died had one purpose: to offer the best, objective, helpful information, dismissing the emotional for the most part. They didn’t emphasize the emotional benefits because I know well that one person’s experience does not qualify as valid for many.

Recent events, however, make me think the emotional benefit for me, could be many people’s experience, although they’re unaware. Left alone in one’s growing-up home with things and memories –and a lot of work seems overwhelming! That said, looking back, it was one of the most precious gifts one can have if we’re fortunate enough to be cast into this position.


My husband is a very organized person who knows how to get things done efficiently and well. After my parents died, we were with a high school friend and her husband, talking about deceased parents’ possessions. The two guys (equally efficient) immediately agreed on what they thought was brilliant.

How about bringing a dumpster to each of our homes (my parents’ home and their home where many of his wife’s parents’ things had been stored for years) and each guy would go to the other’s home and toss out what they thought should go. That way the wives wouldn’t/couldn’t interfere as much and objective thinking would prevail.

Of course that never happened–in either home. And now my husband’s mother is gone and together we have spent time–in 3 separate segments– away from NY, cleaning out unbelievably well-organized, closets, cupboards, and drawers–as well as a large, dusty storage area. (Admittedly I resigned from the latter area …I was sneezing from the dust.)

Currently my husband is out there alone, going through stuff in the dusty area without distractions. Even before “attacking” the storage area, as he came across things from his youth, I could sense the expedient, dumpster appeal was being replaced by another feeling that sets in, taking us back in time. It awakens memories from a time when–if we were fortunate– “father knew best,” mother was home when we came home from school; and questions that arose, after overhearing adult conversations about their friends and relatives, remain mysteries –unless we’re the cleaner-outer.

My husband’s phone call last night about finding his letters sent home from camp and other “treasures” his mother saved from his childhood, elicited–I was sure– the same feelings I had the year before in the west when unearthing things in my parents’ home. It takes time opening envelopes and carefully skimming their contents–to be sure we’re saving important papers, and to be sure we’ve digested every nostalgic morsel. The dumpster would no doubt rob us of this!

Bottom line: Only children have the joy of the above if they choose to take it on.
Advice: If there are siblings, hope that none of them want the job; but share as necessary (there will be memories only a sibling can appreciate) and make certain they participate in equal distribution of all possessions, unless there’s a legal reason to the contrary.

It’s also important to take breaks. If you’re fortunate to still have some good friends living in the area, they no doubt knew your parents, pets, and siblings–adding a specialness if you can get together with them….in which case you’re batting 1000!

Related: Cleaning out Elderly Parents’ Homes after Death or Moving–1
    Cleaning out Elderly Parents’ Homes after Death or Moving–Part 2
    Aging Parents: Letting Go and the Circle of Life (about letting go of the family home)

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

Aging Parents’ Gift: Easy, Thoughtful, Expensive—or Not.

Le Bernardin - New York, NY, United States. Delicious scallops in brown butter dashi. A must!

A Thoughtful Gift Than Can be Used Up: A Winning Combination for Elders and Us

It’s a custom that on birthdays my husband and I get to choose what we want to do. It’s always a wonderful day. This month I decided a meal at a fine restaurant was exactly what I wanted..

Expanding on this idea, we know–as people get older–they want to get rid of things, not accumulate them. So something that gets used up (like food) is preferable unless older people have specific needs.

As we were half-way through our meal, I overheard the mâitre d’ saying to the elderly couple being seated nearby something like, “Your children have arranged for your meal with us to be a gift from them.”

(My mind flashed back to the time we planned something like this for my parents who went up to Victoria, British Columbia for one of their birthdays. My brother found out where they planned to have dinner and I, credit card in hand, phoned the restaurant and asked that the meal be charged to me. It was a special occasion and–although far away–we wanted to have a part in it.)

Seeing the old man’s face light up and his wife’s big smile when the mâitre d’ announced the meal would be a gift from their children, made me want to take a picture. It would have been in bad taste, of course, so writing about it on my blog is the next best thing.

Thoughtful gestures. Gifts that can be used up. Expensive or not. A winning combination as we do our best to help parents age well.

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

Far Away on Father’s Day: Lessening the Trials of Travel for Old and Not-so-Old

Traveling many miles comfortably is hard work, especially for aging parents. That said, being with adult children makes most Dads happy and proud. Is there a better Father’s Day Gift?

DSCN0789Gone are the days of short walks to the boarding gate, corsages on some gloved lady travelers, tasty food, and a feeling of security and relaxation–and even excitement– when stepping onto an airplane. This was the norm in the ’40’s and ’50’s. As Father’s day approaches I’m thinking how much my Dad loved when I returned to my childhood home where he and Mom still lived. That was pre-9/11. I’m also thinking about Sr. Advisor R’s flying “alone” back to NY three years ago for our anniversary–at age 98–and about the enormous effort it must have been.

First–Re: Air Travel

Equipped with TSA PreCheck* to ease TSA’s screening, and my fit-into-the-overhead case and under-seat-size soft-sided case, I embarked on an 8-day trip to the NW with my husband and returned to NYC last night. Shortly before leaving NYC a friend, hearing how happy I was to have TSA precheck and how unhappy I was about needing to navigate my pulley through seemingly miles of airport corridors, suggested a wheelchair. “I use them sometimes, when I’ve got a lot of stuff and don’t want to wear myself out before even getting on the plane,” she (not yet a “senior”) said. If Dad wouldn’t consider using a wheel chair until he was in his 90’s. why would I at a much younger age? Is it pride—or stupidity? I wondered to myself. IMG_4167 With so many elderly parents living far from theirIMG_4169 adult children, Father’s Day–as well as other holidays and milestone events–necessitate travel if families want to be together. Next post: Current TSA information to make air travel more user-friendly–   with suggestions for aging parents and elders we care about. In short, order wheel chairs ahead of time and go online to sign up for TSA PreCheck. Details to follow.

*November 2015. 5 months and many cross-country flight later I–and friends–have found in some airports that the TSA PreCheck lines are as long as the regular lines and some terminals offering PreCheck still require the same inconvenient screening of non-PreCheck. That said, PreCheck is usually preferable.

Aging Parents: Gifts for Fathers and Grandfathers Part 2 2015 Update

Cake by Esperanza

Round-up of 50 Gifts for Fathers and Grandfathers

A tie!? When men “dressed” to go out ties were a most popular Father’s Day gift. While still a popular gift, today’s more casual dress code makes me wonder about the future of ties…they aren’t listed under “Accessories/Clothing” in part 1.
However, this Father’s Day Cake, complete with tie, could be a creative answer for those who bake and like using marzipan. Can anything top making this cake as a loving tribute to a great Dad or Grandad? For those who don’t bake, my round-up continues…..

Hearing: Hearing loss is a problem for older people and for those who communicate with them.

  • Assistive listening systems: products for TV watchers who need very high volume to hear well (while others don’t). Click the preceding link then scroll down to “Assistive Listening Systems” if you wish to educate yourself.
  • Amplified Telephones=better conversation for all. This link provides a quick education as does the “Amplified Telephones” section of this U. of Calif at San Francisco Medical Center site.
  • A good audiologist’s contact information. Do the research to up the odds that the hearing loss will be diagnosed and corrected. Put the information in a gift box with the appropriate note and offer transportation to and from the appointment if you wish.
  • This  2011 NY Times article, mentions/praises Clarity phones, you might want to  click the pictures (amplified phones, mobile phones) for more info.
  • Googling “telephones for hearing loss” provides additional phone options.


  • Starbucks’s VIA ready brew individual instant coffee packets–regular or decaf in 3, 12. or 50 packs for coffee lovers. My Dad would find them pricey–Probably wouldn’t buy them for himself. (Costco used to carry them.)
  • Keurig Coffee Maker and coffee pods–a year-round, expensive–a gift my dad would never have bought for himself–a family-get-together-to-give gift perhaps. Coffee lovers, young and old love it and the coffee pods that can be delivered monthly.
  • A mug (perhaps with a family photo?) to microwave the coffee in.
  • Good bottle of wine
  • Wine refrigerator 
  • His favorite microbrew beer (a case?)
  • Massage
  • Professional shave
  • Manicure/Pedicure
  • An easy-care plant–decorative and life-affirming
  • What about that Father’s Day cake?

Visionwe know vision changes with age; these gifts can enhance

  • Large print books (for those who still like the feel of a book)
  • An electronic book. Because the font can be enlarged–I hear it’s a Godsend. The background color can also make a difference so check this out with someone knowledgeable.
  • A Verilux lamp can be especially helpful for those with vision issues. Two people I know (one with advanced macular degeneration) have the “Original Natural Spectrum” floor model. They say the light bulb adds clarity and the gooseneck directs the light where it does the most good for reading or doing desk work.
  • The mini-maglite, small flashlights that give great light in dark places.                             
  • Pocket magnifying glasses great for reading small print (think menus and the check) in dark restaurants. Pocket 3X strength magnifying-glass takes up little space, is light weight, not pricey (around $10 at Barnes & Noble), remains lit without having to keep a finger on any button.  Amazon”s Lightwedge magnifier gets same rating, looks similar.Also check out the 5X strength ($9.99) from another mfg. Note: This guide for buying magnifying glasses for those with low vision can be helpful.
  • White dishes make it easier for macular-vision affected people to distinguish their food on a plate, for example. Read: Contrast makes the difference
Here’s to successful shopping!
Check out “Newsworthy” (right sidebar). Links to timely tips, information and research from top universities and respected professionals–to help parents age well.