Aging Parents: Lifting and Energizing Spirits With Gifts Appealing to the Eye


Enjoying the View in Central Park

Being able to see–and watch. What pleasure! Accompanied by hearing, touch, smell, and taste, vision completes the 5 senses.

Uplifting, energizing things to look at take many forms for different people. The woman above is 74, a visitor to the US I learned, and came early to sit in Central Park before meeting a friend for breakfast. In front of her was a passing parade: the “Race for the Cure,” energetic children, every breed of dog with masters attached, and sun streaming through the trees. She said she loved watching and was happy to have me take her picture.

The first step is to know what constitutes “visual delights” for aging parents, whether they are healthy and independent and able to come and go at will or are among the frail and isolated elderly, many of whom look mostly at TV and “the four walls.” Then think about–

Gift Ideas

Portland, OR Zoo: Old and Young

1. Nature (animal, views of……., birds, flowers, parks) From outings (zoos are great– handicap accessible, often equipped with wheelchairs [see San Diego Zoo post]) to a bird feeder strategically placed outside a window (and refilled by someone other than the older person when necessary)— to taking gifts of plants or seasonal flowers (daffodils in spring)–possibilities are available “right in your own backyard,” as they say.
2. Spectator activities (sports, people-watching, concerts, movies) Possibilities range from gifting activities and providing transportation (grandchildren’s concerts and athletic endeavors, grown-up venues–the latest play coming to town, county fair, and maybe even a drive-in movie) to providing the best technology for those confined to watching TV. The latter, for the legally blind like a friend’s mother, included a comfortable chair situated right next to the easily-operated TV set where she could listen and sort of watch her favorite programs.
3. Family Anything involving grandchildren gets a ***** rating from most older people…so even a photo is precious. That said, the reunion lunch planned by their daughters for two very elderly sisters who lived hours apart and hadn’t seen each other in years (one mobility-impaired, the other with dementia) was an ambitious gift that was 100% worth it. Read reunion post: A Special Summer Outing
4. Food has taken on a life of its own in the gift category. Taking a friend’s old mother (who died at 104) a beautifully decorated cupcake became a tradition that continued for at least a decade. She said it was too pretty to eat, though eat she did. And the young friend that brought Sr. Advisor R a bakery-decorated Halloween cookie (topping a batch of cookies she made) while R was in rehab for her broken hip two years ago, has never been forgotten.

A gift that requires vision to appreciate needn’t be expensive.

My father, who had independence until almost the very end surprised me after Mother died when he said one day “I want to live as long as I can watch the sun rise each day.” He died in a bedroom with a window facing east.

Nat’l Institutes of Health Resource: