Passover and Easter 2016: Thoughtful Ideas and Gifts for Aging Parents/Elders

IMG_2981   2016   Easter March 27       Passover: April 22-30

Ideas for adding pleasure to the lives of Aging Parents and the Elders We Love

Small bunnies add whimsey to spring baskets. Wouldn’t they bring joy to aging parents or to seniors in a care facility?

We celebrate miracles: The Resurrection of Christ after the Crucifixion. The exodus of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt with the Red Sea’s parting.

Older generations fondly recall traditions that brought family members together: Passover–with Seders and children hunting for the hidden matzo; Easter–with church services, Easter egg hunts for the kiddies, and a special Easter meal. The timing of Passover and Easter usually coincide. The Last Supper was a Passover Sedar.

Holidays evoke warmth of family, feelings of togetherness. Yet we know holidays can be depressing for older people living alone, without children to visit or invitations to partake in family celebrations. On the other hand, opportunities for bringing pleasure to old and/or lonely people during Easter and Passover are many:

Attending Easter services together, then…

…dining at a place with beautiful surroundings that make the outing special
…going to a restaurant in town where aging parents who don’t get out much can take a short walk (walker? wheelchair?), window shop, enjoy seeing normal activity
…having a meal at home with family–togetherness, conversation, participation…
…If having an Easter egg hunt in the yard, invite family elders to join the fun of watching

When the Easter meal is at home and elders want to help, accept the offer. We know how good it feels to contribute, to do our part. And feeling useful helps elders age well.

Ditto for Passover. One of our now-departed Senior Advisors said proudly that she made: chopped liver, matzo balls, gefilte fish, and horseradish for the Seder. Not easy at 89.  Yet she said she was able “to work it out so I could make everything ahead.” And best of all perhaps for her, “It was a good feeling because everyone wanted to take some home and there wasn’t anything left.”

Passover Sedars follow a prescribed ritual in which children participate. Usually at home with family, it’s also customary to invite guests. Children read from the Haggadah and search for the hidden matzo as part of the ritual. Several years ago there were no children at a Sedar in Portland, Oregon. Who would look for the hidden matzo? Creative thinking perpetuated the tradition.

The oldest guests were sent on the hunt. We’re told that an excited 86-year-old found the matzo. While not traditional, life today with children and grandchildren living near is not the same as in times past. Adapting is the name of the game for holidays (and so much else).

And last but definitely not least, what about the frail, isolated elderly who are confined to their homes or care centers? A visit is always welcome, of course, and bringing little gifts–perhaps a basket with  Easter treats or Passover macarons–while unnecessary–is a welcome surprise.

IMG_2977 Suggestions:

 Bring a little lunch or snack (“nothing big,” I’m told) to share while you talk (consider dietary restrictions if known).

…Easter-decorated cookies or cupcakes or fruit, nuts  or macarons (above) for Passover
…an easy-care living indoor plant–possibilities: (philodendron [sweetheart plant], fern [nephrolepis], spathiphyllum [peace lilly–wallisi variety] or kalanchoe)
…a flowering outdoor plant for a sunny indoor spot or patio (geraniums work for both)
–a bird feeder that can be placed near a window and easily watched (if there is someone who can keep the bird feeder filled)
…pollen allergies a problem? baskets with goodies (sweets, fruits, nuts–a game?

Easter and Passover celebrate miracles. While we can’t make miracles for our elders, we can give them something to look forward to if they know ahead that we’re coming. And if we bring a spirit-lifting little gift, it’s an additional spirit-lifter–beyond our presence. All contribute to helping parents and elders we love age well, especially during holidays.

 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: Lift Spirits on SAINT PATRICK’S DAY

Oxalis regnellii (Shamrock) Plants at Trader Joe’s
March 2016
 I’ve always loved this plant and have written about it in previous posts. It’s easy care: likes good, indirect light; flowers for long periods, then takes a rest; opens in daylight and closes up at night; likes moist, non-soggy soil and its leaves collapse (but plant doesn’t die) to tell you when it’s too dry and needs immediate watering. How user-friendly is that?

The fact that it opens and closes makes it fun to watch and a good gift…especially for those who are homebound or in care facilities. That said, I–being neither homebound nor in a care facility–find this a wonderful plant.shamrock-plantTo be perfectly honest, picking off the dead flowers is the only part of having this plant that isn’t wonderful and admittedly that’s very picky (excuse pun). If left alone the stem dries up and a little tug removes dried stem and flower. Since flowers don’t look so good dried out, I’m always cutting the stems off after the they bloom. That said, cutting off dead flowers is a personal choice..

If gifting an aging parent with a shamrock plant, you could ask his/her permission–if you wish– to cut the old bloom(s) off when you visit. Well-groomed plants always look best. (Care instructions–from one of the best nurseries–scroll down, click Plant Care)


A wide green stripe appears today–going down 5th Avenue. NYC is ready once again for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade–a huge event in a city that takes celebrating St. Patrick’s Day seriously. (I’ll take pictures tomorrow and add them below.)

IMG_5017 IMG_5023

In the meantime, think about adding a shamrock plant to an aging parent’s life. It’s another way to lift spirits. For elderly non-plant lovers whose digestive systems permit, there’s always corned beef and cabbage and special draft beers (some green). Check out these  New York ideas.

Fun times may be few and far between for the elderly.

St. Patrick’s Day offers another chance to lift spirits and that helps parents age well.







Aging Parents: How Often Do Grandparents Say Grandchildren Are The Best Gift?



How many older people have become Facebook users
as a way to stay connected with grandchildren?

Since research confirms that connections with others are one of the most important factors in aging well, how fortunate that technology now makes this easier. As we think about holiday gifts for elders who are grandparents–think GRANDCHILDREN

Clearly the ad agencies understand this! Indeed, a current TV ad features a sweet, kind-looking, elderly gentleman, sitting in a chair, proudly telling the world he has a (named) brand of technology so that now he can keep in touch with his grandson. Obviously ad agencies have compiled data showing what appeals to the majority (and makes a good gift if grandparents are instructed how to use it).

This post could be very short, simply suggesting that we use our imaginations, understanding that any gift that provides a connection to grandchildren is what the majority of grandparents want. That said, here are broad examples

Time with grandchildren–in any way we can make that happen, it could be–
–a visit, a phone call, a card (preferably made by them), the latter with an IOU for a planned get-together later on. Example: Older grandchildren can schedule a visit to simply spend time with a grandparent or help with certain tasks that make life better/easier for grandparents; the young ones are perfect for simple companionship.


Anything tangible that brings grandchildren’s presence into grandparents’ lives.
–In the old days this mostly consisted of photos and grandmothers’ charm bracelets…and perhaps a handprint in Plaster of Paris or another work of art grandchildren made in school or elsewhere. Today there are iPads, tablets, photos framed or technology-created—this includes previously written-about Brighton handbags, as well as photos of grandchildren reproduced on other accessories.

Two scientists–one a chemist, the other in research– in our family, stayed with us during the Thanksgiving holiday. I posed the “Why do grandparents say anything related to being with their grandchildren is the best gift?” question.  After the usual–“grandchildren continue the family line/lineage thus are special,” or “grandparents usually have less life stress than when they were parents so can enjoy grandchildren more,” came a surprising explanation from the chemist. One word: oxytocin.

Sometimes known as the “cuddle hormone” or the “love hormone” it surges when people snuggle up or bond socially making them feel good–which happens when grandparents are with their grandchildren. It doesn’t take long to make the association: grandchildren=feel good; and simply receiving a grandchild’s photo or hearing his or her voice can cause this oxytocin surge…this good feeling. So–

With Chanukah almost here and Christmas in the offing, gifts that bring grandparents close to their grandchildren should be winners–making them feel good. And doesn’t that help them age well!

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: Live Science (2015) Facts About the Cuddle Hormone
Technology gifts for Aging Parents (and Grandparents)
See “Great Gifts” tab under header for more ideas.

Aging Parents: Living 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

Click here for details and pictures of:
9. Oxalis
10. Bromeliad
11. Spathiphyllum

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:  Easy-Care Plants for Aging Parents

Information for making or purchasing dish gardens and/or terrariums below:
                 Live Plants in Little Landscapes –Terrariums
                 Aging Parents: Little-care, Live Plants, Gifts–Flowering or Not 

*Dish garden succulents–inexpensive, from Home Depot
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 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?

*    *    *

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.

Continue reading

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.