Two Great 90th–or younger–Birthday Party Ideas


Saturday night three creative adult children honored their 90-year-old mother with a warm, upbeat, lovely dinner party. There were 78 guests ages 4-94, the latter being Laura’s husband of 69 years. What made it such fun? And also interesting?

  • It was well planned, with just the right mix of short speeches, video, recorded messages, nonprofessional music, thoughtful seating of guests and family members.
  • The venue was a hotel. Drinks and hors d’oeuvre in one private room; another room set up with table for dining (8 persons per table), a screen for the video of family members going back to Laura’s grandmother.
  • 2 original very personalized games:

The first, confessed by one grandchild, was a scavenger hunt the grandchildren played (without the grandparents knowing about it) the day before in Laura’s refrigerator and pantry. Goal: find the packages, jars, or containers with the oldest expiration date. They held up each item, announced its contents (e.g. can of sweet peas expired 1996; package of Jello expired 2000) bringing gales of laughter. Don’t we all know older people who have expired food on their shelves?

The second game–consisted of repeating sayings they’d heard over and over from their grandmother. If Laura could remember which kid she said it to and under what circumstance, she’d get a whatever (kiss?). Laura protested that she hadn’t been prepped for this game, whereupon the kids ignored her protests and continued. A fun way to hear information about the honoree and Laura’s not being prepared made it spontaneous, which was half the fun.

  • Proclamations sent by various officials (Laura was active in local politics). Seems her son got busy, many months before, writing state and local officials. Laura thinks there must be people in government offices who specialize in sending congratulatory letters.
  • The video was short, with music and voice over and old family photos. Videos are no doubt a part of many celebrations for older/old people. But something made this video even more special. After watching a lifetime of carefully selected photos and getting a feeling for the family there was an interesting addition. Laura’s brother told the story. In going back and tracing the family roots, a lost part of the family was found, contacted, and six members of that family were in attendance.

When birthday parties for the elderly involve research, one never knows what will be unearthed!

On a personal note–Interestingly that same day–because the party was in a town that had a railroad station but no taxis, I got off the train and phoned (as instructed) the hotel to ask for their car service. The latter was very slow to arrive. Nearby was a van with a father and two youngsters and I decided I’d perhaps walk to the hotel if it wasn’t too far so I tapped on the window and asked the distance-to-the-hotel question.  (For those interested, New Yorkers are accustomed to walking everywhere so I’d planned to change into good  shoes at the hotel.)

We had a short conversation and to our surprise, we learned my former next-door neighbor was his cousin….a cousin he hadn’t seen in 30 years, but was reunited with at the family wedding down south last summer. (Yes, he took me to the hotel.)

Bottom line: Whether birthday parties for the elderly, or weddings for those younger, milestone events clearly provide occasions that add enjoyment and surprises. And doesn’t that contribute to helping parents–and all the elderly we care about–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.



Old Parents, Breast Cancer Surgery and Dental Work: Options–Do All, Less, or Nothing

Is it Better to do Nothing or–at least–Less?
A Woman Rejects Mammograms at a Certain Age

A friend just drove to upstate New York to be with her 70-some-year-old mother who was having a lumpectomy. While her mother didn’t want her to make the trip, she was glad to do it so she could help out a bit. That’s what daughters do, right?

I thought about Sr. Advisor, R, who in her early 90’s, decided against any more mammograms–period. Her rationale: if they found something suspicious she wasn’t going to do anything about it anyway, so why impact her life with knowledge that would only cause stress and concern–for herself and for those around her. When R died in her sleep at 101, it was assumed old age was the reason.

What about Dental Work?

While keeping our own teeth as long as possible and having regular dental check-ups are important, one of my brother’s better decisions was to forgo taking Dad to the dentist who wanted to pull a tooth. The tooth was not bothering Dad, but X’rays showed there was potential for problems according to Dad’s dentist. In fact, I had taken Dad to the appointment when that dentist first suggested the extraction.

Dad was 92 and very conscientious about taking care of his teeth.. To me–and my brother–it made sense to wait until Dad felt some problem, rather than expose him to anesthesia and all that was necessary for the extraction. Dad had no other teeth problems, and still had that potentially problematic tooth when he died at 94.

The point is (and this is not medical advice, simply our experience): Sometimes there’s a delicate balance between doing and not doing where the elderly are concerned. When we’re young we recover faster, heal faster, and adjust to whatever insults our body sustains–faster.

Doctors and others in the health professions, especially when most of their patients are middle-age and younger, may not think about the increased fragility of old people, so it’s up to us to weigh all the factors, discuss them with elderly loved ones and–of course–their doctors and dentists.

We may not save lives, but we can raise awareness with doctors and dentists and hopefully maintain the right balance for aging parents when it comes to certain health issues. When procedures are elective and appropriate for the elderly and professionals understand the old age factor, it should help parents age well until the end.
Related: “Mastectomy vs Lumpectomy: Is Bigger Better? “–UCLA doctors’ Webinar October 2016

Lifting Aging Parents’ Spirits in the Fall–6 Ideas


Fall foliage and Walkers in Central Park 2015

Combatting Senior Sadness in Fall
Do we notice mood changes in elders when less daylight makes days feel shorter?

September 22nd.  The beginning of Fall– the Fall Equinox. Hours of daylight lessen. Days feel shorter. Darker days darken some people’s mood. Clearly the elderly aren’t immune and may be even more at risk if they live alone or are inclined to “see the glass half empty.”

The idea of cozy, apple cider, pumpkin pie and beautiful fall foliage may be off their radar–replaced by gloom, doom, and loneliness as they contemplate the literally-darker days ahead.

Adding some spirit-lifting ideas for this group has become tradition for Help! Aging Parents. But we’re a bit earlier this year and why is that?  While the unusually warm weather in many parts of the US is delaying signs of fall in terms of leaveimg_5311s on trees and other vegetation dying down, it seems holiday decorations appear earlier and earlier every year and 2016 is no exception. Indeed, pumpkins are in evidence in NYC now–seen this week outside of Lowe’s, some restaurants, and in some window displays

This actually gives us more time to provide activities that add interest to the lives of those elders we care about.

  1. For the homebound, try this simple entertainment: On a level surface, Vernal Equinoxbalance an egg on its end during the vernal or autumnal equinox.  We’re told this is tricky, but can be done any day of the year–especially if eggs have little bumps on the ends. (click 1-minute video). I forgot to do it the other day, but here’s proof–a picture taken years ago during the vernal equinox in March with a non-bumpy egg. Using a non-bumpy egg, takes practice; but I could teach neighborhood children to do it—so give it a try next March, or look for bumpy eggs and give it a try now. Guaranteed to spark conversation about something other than aches and pains.


2.  A drive to view the fall foliage speaks for itself. Although outings with older people may require bringing along a lot of extra stuff, the chance to get out and see different scenery, and spend time chatting in the car is priceless, memorable, and gives elders something to talk about and think about well past the event itself. Including a meal along the way adds to the enjoyment. Can anything equal Autumn in Vermont?

3. Since we know mobility–and maintaining balance–require more effort as people get older, taking a walk addresses several issues in the “If-You-Don’t-Use-It, You-Lose-It category.” Leg muscles strengthen with walks (whether using a cane or not);  socialization likely occurs; and clearly children, dogs, cyclists and scenery are in great supply (note Central Park photo at top). This expands horizons, especially for those who, through choice or preference, remain housebound.  apple-picking-long-island

4.  Apple-picking is synonymous with fall and includes exercise–if only a short walk. Many orchards open their property to apple-pickers. Could a drive to an orchard with elderly parents and their grandchildren provide a fun outing?

5.  Ditto for the pumpkin patch or farm stand. Plan a trip with children and elders to visit a pumpkin patch or select this year’s pumpkin from those at the farm’s stand.
Favorite Farm Stand 2014


6.  And what’s more fun than generations cooking together. There’s something about working together in the warmth of a kitchen that provides special moments. Making apple cider isn’t difficult; encourages conversation; and the resulting aroma that fills the air is an added bonus- (2 recipes below)

7. More togetherness in the kitchen includes making applesauce together or what about this recipe for applesauce pancakes? …Is it too early to make a pumpkin pie?

There’s an added 3-fold benefit when these ideas are planned ahead of time.  As Sr. Advisor said:  they’re something to look forward to; they’re something to do; and they’re something to look back on and think about. That’s almost a home-run isn’t it! And if the cooking is added, could it be called a bases-loaded home run ?

Related: easily-made cider using bottled apple juice
 made-from-scratch apple cider

Surprising Depression Symptoms from Prevention Magazine

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




Aging Parents: Caregiving With A Little Help From My Friends

Image result for "I get by with a little help from my friends sheet music image

Caregiving. Caregiver support. One size never fits all. We have our own ways of approaching and handling things.That said, a reference to this Kiplinger’s magazine article, Pitching In When Caregivers Need Help, was glaring at me as I began moving older Newsworthy articles from the column at right, to “Newsworthy Archives” (above). Having just gone through months of what qualifies as “caregiving,” I’m thinking the idea for finding additional help as offered by Kiplinger’s  three listed sites below may appeal to many.

The first site: Lotsahelpinghands–how-it-works reminds me of those community blackboards I’ve seen in neighborhoods in Portland, Oregon offering services: people helping people –a ride, someone to make meals etc. (the site has added other aspects now). It has a practical emphasis. This no doubt works well in suburbia and smaller communities and in cities where neighborhoods are important.

The second site, concentrates on supportive relationships and meaningful communication and support through shared and private interactions on the internet. With a goal to “foster healing among loved ones,” it has no geographical restrictions. It seems to emphasize the “touchy-feely” and offers planned activity ideas.

The third site, caringbridge–how it works: provides a private site for family, friends and others you select–saves calling many people with the same information and allows easy updates and messages for all users invited to use the site. For those with large families and large groups that care and want to regularly share, this could be the answer. 

However, none of the above would have worked for me, I guess confirming the fact that “one size doesn’t fit all,” “different strokes for different folks” or whatever. Some of us will find our own routine and support system–out of creativity or necessity.

I live in New York City. I was “it”–the caregiver–for my husband. Whether in the hospital or at home, there was little time for private calls to family–all living in the west–or friends, spread out across the country.  And there was no time for extended conversations or daily emailing.

My solution: Once or twice a month I emailed blasts, trying to craft the nicest email I could with timely information, always adding at the end something like: “Please understand, my day is over-full, and much as I’d like to talk with–or email– each one of you, I can’t; so please don’t call me.” I created a contact group on my Mac and sent updates as appropriate.

As for support, I got by, and continue to get by, with a little help from my friends–three  friends, each helpful in different ways, to whom I will forever feel grateful and indebted.

With hopes that one of the preceding ideas will resonate with many…..


Related: (For nostalgia’s sake–watch the performance–YouTube in color: the Beatles with Ringo singing  I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends



Help Aging Parents–and Us! PINs & Passwords

Essential Aging Parent Information

Picture this: Our with-it aging father banks online and has a smart phone. But we don’t know his PINS (personal identification numbers), passwords or where–or even if–there’s a list of them somewhere. This didn’t trouble us when we bragged about his ability to use new technology, but it becomes a gigantic problem when a health event that affects his memory occurs–namely: he can’t remember his PINS or passwords.

We know where he banks; have the list of emergency and professional people to contact; and know where to find necessary documents. But how do we pay his bills online or access other things that require PINs or passwords?

When someone is hospitalized, we don’t think about the above. We may forget to check that his/her technology is updated or even look at his or her cell phone or computer. We have other priorities.

For example: Gramp banks online. He uses a Mac, but doesn’t regularly update. Now he’s hospitalized, his memory has been impacted by medications and surgery and someone needs to pay his ordinary bills. He asks his adult child to pay his bills online on his Mac.

A message from Gramp’s bank announces users should update their browser. Adult child immediately updates browser and bills are paid online. No problem. Two weeks later, however, “update browser” messages keep appearing, online banking isn’t working. Phone call to bank’s technical support reveals techies have made some major changes and unfortunately, for the time being, only two browsers work–one (not Safari) for Apple products, one for PCs. While the bank is trying to remedy the problem there’s no guarantee how long it will take. Therefore, simply download the browser that works. It’s downloaded. Result: still locked out of online banking.

Apple is contacted. It seems Gramp’s Mac doesn’t have the latest–now necessary–update. While it’s free from the App Store, Gramp’s Apple ID, now needed, is nowhere to be found. No way to update. Gramp’s bills must be paid by check and mailed.  How time-consuming and frustrating is that–especially when we’re worried about–and attending to– Gramp’s recovery..

Is it denial? Laziness? Are our parents too busy? Do we fail to recognize that memory can be affected by things other than death? Yes, it takes time to record PINs and passwords. Perhaps we can help with this chore. Case made.

To double-check that we have all aging parents’ essential information, click the link below from my updated 2014 post. It can help mitigate problems later on.


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


Help Parents Age Well–With Hugs and Love–Until the End

Importance of Hugs and “Love You’s” for Older, Hospitalized Adults
(Seems obvious, doesn’t it)

“Hugs” and “Love You”–two expressions generously shared these days.They make us feel valued, nurture our souls, support emotional and physical well being.  They’re exchanged countless times by friends and family in our younger years, lessening in old age, and problematical for hospitalized elders and those who love them, especially at life’s end.

Much is written about what to do and say when a loved one’s life nears its end. (See “Related” below); but hospitalized elderly have a not-written-about reality that impacts our caregiving connection. Specifically the intrusion of hospital routines, physical barriers, and lack of privacy. These issues are rarely–if ever–addressed, although the specific nextavenue link below seems to have overcome the problem–or just neglects to address it in its useful, heartfelt article.

Hospitalization makes hugs and personal sharing tricky. Aides come in to draw a drop of blood and take temperatures numerous times daily. Physical barriers exist between us and the person in bed. IV poles, monitors, drips, lines, tray tables, night stands–and those bed rails–defy making easy physical contact….unless one has super-long arms or is a contortionist. Hospital regulations, loss of privacy and constant interruptions interfere with that special, loving connection we ideally want with our love ones. And touching is a powerful part.

In hospital nurseries babies are held and cuddled, no doubt infusing warmth, security, and a feeling of being cared about. But adult hospital patients in private rooms or with roommates lack the equivalent–be it a kiss, hug, a hand to hold, or a gentle massage. A kind of physical–if not mental–isolation results, whether patients are in private rooms or have roommates. No wonder people want to die at home.

According to the 2015 National Health Statistic Report more than 80% of Medicare beneficiaries aged 65 and over would want to die at home. However “in 2013, one-third of 1,904,640 deaths among persons aged 65 and over in the United States occurred in the hospital, about the same proportion as in the previous 12 years.”.

The Question: How do we convey our love and caring to one restricted to a hospital bed?

Giving my mother over to the hospital:

I’d forgotten–or perhaps repressed–the feeling until I was back in the hospital with my husband. I’d forgotten how hard it was to give my mother a hug when her small body lay in that wide bed with bed rails up to keep her safe. I forgot how ludicrous I thought it was when elderly people are so weak they need help to turn over, yet have bed’s rails blocking  access.

So here’s the recipe to combat that isolation and bring some normalcy and love into the equation:
1. Learn how to lower the bed rail on the side you’re on (and remember to put it up when you leave).
2. Sit on the bed if that puts you closer to hug, kiss, or simply hold or pat a hand.
3. If small grandchildren are permitted and can follow instructions, why not let them climb on the bed, crawl around, kiss and hug. If pets are allowed, so much the better, but have we ever seen a pet in the hospital unless it’s a therapy dog—but hey! Doesn’t “therapy dog” say something about contact between beings?
4. Today some hospitals provide chairs that make into beds for spending the night with a loved one. But the space between the newly-fashioned bed and the hospital bed can feel like the great divide. Again, lower the bed rail and scoot the newly-created bed right up to the hospital bed. Hospital beds can be raised and lowered so both are at more-or-less the same level….and if not the same level, get some pillows to fill gaps as a way of transitioning to the hospital bed’s lower or higher position.
5.  Learn how to lower or raise the hospital bed.

Lastly, as we keep in mind that older people, who no longer have a spouse, don’t get many sincere, loving words or touches any more–unless from grandchildren–it makes sense to remember that the simple  “Love You” when family and visitors leave can be an empty phrase. Perhaps good-byes that are upbeat and forward-looking—like “You’re the best….” or “See you tomorrow (fill in the day–it’s something to look forward to) can be added.


Related:  next/avenue has done a series of articles on our subject over the last few months.  How to Be Present With One Who is Sick or Dying reallygets it,”

The Power of Touch:

USA TodayHugs Warm the Heart. concludes with Ohio State University psychologist Janice Kiecolt-Glaser quoted as saying “Although ours is a youth-oriented culture, older adults may benefit most from touch. “The older you are, the more fragile you are physically, so contact becomes increasingly important for good health.”

Huffington Post: 7 Reasons Why We Should be Giving More Hugs.” Read “Adults Can Benefit from Hugging the Most” which concludes “…Studies have shown that loneliness, particularly with age, can also increase stress and have averse health effects. By hugging someone, we instantly feel closer to that person and decrease feelings of loneliness.” This latter link lends validity to the loneliness aspect.

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



Aging Parents: When We Invest Ourselves in Caregiving

When we work hard at something, expend great effort–perhaps even go beyond what we thought were our limits–we’ve invested ourselves. Indeed, when we’ve put a lot of ourselves into something it permeates us. Be it caregiving or whatever, it becomes a significant part of life; the major part of life; and for some individuals–their life. Over time it’s easy to lose perspective and upset the needed balance to be emotionally and physically healthy.

                               “You’ve got to take care of yourself.”

How many times do caregivers hear that? We needn’t be geniuses to know that food and sleep are necessary for physical health and stamina; but there may be precious little of both due to circumstances beyond our control. It’s also easy to get so caught up in the demands and decisions that we forget priorities. We may think about our needs, but other demands supersede.

  • We skip meals or vitamins or meds, planning to take them later, then forget.
  • We get less sleep, planning to make it up with a short nap that never/rarely happens.
  • We fool ourselves into thinking we can remain in high gear forever, not knowing how long our caregiving will need to continue.
  • We may be in denial that people with certain conditions that require caregiving can outlive their caregiver.

Whether loved ones are at home, in hospitals, or in care centers our lives and routines are impacted. That spills over to physical health and emotions.

On a personal level: Having experienced some of the above almost half of this year, and being aware of the consequences of overextending, I tried to do it right. I ate well (although sometimes only two complete meals+snacks a day), walked about 2 miles daily, but was admittedly often sleep-deprived. Thinking I took care of myself pretty well under the circumstances, I’ve had a shock!

A few weeks ago, I got dressed to go out. I put my iPhone in my pants’ pocket. To my amazement, and almost embarrassment, after taking a few steps the iPhone’s weight (which isn’t much as we know) caused my pants to start sliding down, I put on another pair–same result. I rarely get on a scale, but I did. Scale shock! I’ve lost almost 10% of my weight, and was too busy to realize it until the other day.

Solutions and Remedies
Two Questions:

  1. How does one get more sleep when he or she is called upon to do other things? How does one turn off a racing mind? Why does exhaustion make it harder to sleep?
  2. How do we know when we’re not eating enough?

I contacted a highly experienced counseling colleague (our offices shared a waiting room and secretary years ago) to weigh in on #1. She’s one of the most effective counselors I know– always sees the big picture and has the capacity to “nail things.”  She innately “gets it.” I shouldn’t have been surprised when she lumped #’s 1 and 2 together.

“Sometimes you have to deal with the fact that you’re losing weight and sleep. But you have to accept the fact, otherwise you’re giving yourself additional stress when you already have so much. You won’t starve to death and you may not sleep–but your body will tire eventually and you will sleep.” She continues: “Feeling that you have to sleep, for example, causes stress–it keeps you awake. Focus on the awareness instead of the stress. Whether it’s sleep or eating enough, be aware of your body signals–monitor yourself; and if out of control, seek medical help.” 

                                            Monitoring Ourselves

When during the day do we make the best decisions? have the most energy? have the least patience? Sometimes things seems less solvable and more urgent at night because we’re tired, but in the morning answers and solutions come more easily. Can a walk or a certain amount of time spent exercising help us analyze problems more objectively?

                                                  About Friends

Barb just ended 6 months of 24/7 caregiving in their home, for her husband’s 91-year-old mother who recently died. That plus her private practice and cooking for four people on different diets would have overwhelmed many; being sleep-deprived was the norm. A month later, she has helped me. And that’s where friends come in.

While friends mean well, it’s important to enlist certain friends’ help for certain problems. Good friends always want to help and want the best for us. But we need to think carefully about who’s the best resource for help with a given problem, otherwise we’re vulnerable to more frustration.

If we discipline ourselves to think broadly, and remember the “6 degrees of separation” theory, we should be able to find the best help for those entrusted to our care.

As we invest ourselves in caregiving, we also need to recognize and attend to our needs. To this end the value of certain friends is priceless.

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