Aging Parents: Older Mothers and Nonmothers on Mother’s Day

Sunday is Mother’s Day as we know–a day we do more than just help aging parents. We celebrate mothers–old and young…and grandmothers and great-grandmothers and mothers-in-law.

I began thinking: What about important women in our lives who have no children to honor them? And what about the less organized among us who still need a last-minute gift that shows special thought and caring?

I was with a woman last week, a senior citizen who has no children or living parents although she has two nieces she thinks the world of. I asked if she and her husband had plans for this coming Sunday. Her reply: she hoped she would hear from her nieces. They had phoned on past Mother’s Days. They lived in another state and she loved when they called–but of course, she couldn’t be certain they would phone. That conversation generated a few ideas.

First, Mother’s Day is our opportunity to let women–our mothers and others–know that they mean a lot to us. A phone call, mailed cards, flowers, candy–all can convey the message. And for older people, the importance of being remembered by someone other than children may be greater than we think. Three women–age range late eighties to 102–all with children and grandchildren, report for years they have received a Mother’s Day card from one of their children’s friends. That, they said, was extra special.

Second, two very different, last-minute gift ideas for mothers. Nether is “stuff.” The first, in honor of your mother, make a contribution to a recognized charitable/nonprofit organization 501(c) (3) that is meaningful to her. The second is in the “help parents age well” category, connected with driving/transportation, exercise and stimulation.

One rather unusual, but worthy charity idea that may be “right’ for certain mothers is a donation to Heifer International, A Heifer International email said in part:

Mothers go by many names:
Mom, Momma, Ma, Mati, Nay, Mzaa…
We have a few others:
Hen, Ewe, Cow, Sow, Doe.

This Mother’s Day celebrate your mother by giving one—a mother that will provide a new means of income and nutrition to a hungry family. The mothers of the world will thank you...Whatever gift you give through Heifer will be passed on, with proper training and tools, from one mother to another. Entire communities will be changed in your mom’s honor.

I checked out the nonprofit organization with Dr. Viola Vaughn, Teachers College Distinguished Alumni from Senegal, who knew about its worthwhile work. Since I was thinking of donating a goat, we discussed goats and she explained how much they contributed to a family’s being able to sustain itself. Clicking the Heifer link informs us that as little as $10 gives a share of a goat, (an entire goat is $120; $20 buys a flock of chickens etc.).

The second idea involves transportation, exercise, and stimulation, which take on more and more importance as parents age. Gifts that incorporate these aspects of living into an aging mother’s life can be a real plus, if they don’t already exist.

  • First, check to see if/when a CarFit evaluation (sponsored by AARP and AAA) is available in your community then give your mother an IOU to accompany her to one. See additional safe-driving suggestions in my October post. Last month I was in a parking lot where a CarFit evaluation was going on; asked if they could take me without an appointment. They did. They check how well one fits into his/her car for safe driving and make suggestions: ie. seat cushions to elevate drivers who may have age-related “shrinking” that limits visibility, wider rear-view mirrors etc.
  • Taxi script may be a welcome gift if mothers no longer drive or are hesitant about about driving.
  • Or consider a gift membership to organizations like the “Y” which usually offer stimulating programs as well as exercise; or a gift certificate for an exercise program like Silver Sneakers that accepts medicare in many states (check it out) and helps older mothers stay fit and engaged.

Whatever we do to help aging parents on this day, mothers usually appreciate our efforts and–to reiterate from previous posts– spending Mother’s Day with children and grandchildren is the best.

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