Aging Parents: Gifts That Look Great!

They say “It’s what’s inside that counts.” No argument here. That said, doesn’t anything that looks great on the outside raise our spirits…and those of our elders?

Two gift-giving holidays are fast-approaching. I think of the value of extra nicely wrapped gifts–where the initial fun is seeing them, followed by the joy of discovering what’s inside. Again this year, the Garden Section of our Woman’s Club has purchased gift items and wrapped them attractively–always making sure they contain some plant material (nothing artificial).

Three days ago they were on display, lining one side of the main room at the Holiday Open House. Some are above, once again ready to be taken to a nearby nursing home the next day. The Club member, who has always headed this project and transports the gifts to the nursing home, reports that the patients “light up” when they see the carts filled with these packages come through the door.

The stuffed dog has its nose in the air, while the list of contents in the adjoining basket looks you right in the eye.

All gifts are on the approved nursing home list, since we don’t know the recipients. Note partial list in photo at right. The pine cone with red bow counts as plant material. (Click once or twice to enlarge photo.)

Of course when gifts are for parents and friends, the only rules for gifts are those you set. Tins of hot chocolate and boxes of cookies and candy aren’t off limits. Additionally you know their wants and needs.

Cellophane makes baskets and open boxes look great! Putting it over a basket with a bow or ornament at the top converts a plain basket of gifts into a professional-looking showpiece.

Ditto for today’s colorful Christmas bags….just gently twist red or green tissue paper around the gift(s) and put it or them in the bag. Use tape and wrap gifts in the traditional way if you wish. But it’s not necessary with the decorative bag.

This year I learned lining a box–inside and out with holiday paper–is easy, requiring just a scissors and scotch tape plus the paper. And placing wrapped or unwrapped gifts inside makes a wonderful display–no top needed (below). Cellophane around the box and over the top, tied at the top, is an option (but not necessary).


Sometimes it’s the little things that ignite the spark of joy. A few extra minutes to buy tissue, cellophane, bags and ribbon can bring added excitement to aging parents and elders we care about, whether living independently or in a nursing home. As the letter Garden Sections members received years ago reminds us:

Dear Ladies,
My nice little plant is doing very nicely and is happy.  The Christmas tray and notepaper plus pens are a wonderful gift. We are all very appreciative of all the goodies you sent to us. You make our holidays much more exciting. We are old and sick, not dead. I hope you all know that your thoughtfulness is appreciated.
 My Christmas basket from last year still decorates my room.
Thank you and God Bless.

Holiday Gifts for Nursing Home and Care Facilities Residents December 2013

Decorative Baskets Soon On Their Way~

“We are old and sick, not dead.
hope you all know that your thoughtfulness is appreciated.”

The first Wednesday in December– it’s tradition. The Woman’s Club holds its annual Holiday open house. The Garden Section members began the tradition of preparing baskets for nursing home residents 7 years ago, adhering to a suggested list of small gifts and “no-no’s” supplied by the facility and sticking to a $10 or under expenditure. The expenditure limit has been raised a bit. Inexpensive items, bringing great joy. Finding them at TJ Maxx, grocery stores, drug stores, etc. is half the fun.

Poinsettia, candy canes, red blanket in white basketBecause all members were “Plant People” and “Garden Lovers” there was a requirement, to include some fresh plant material: ivy cuttings (which seem to last 3 weeks without water), a plant, or a sprig of evergreen or holly. The sprigs don’t last long without water. Some members became more creative, putting evergreen and/or holly sprigs in $ store vases with very wet paper towels.

That sufficed until the next day when everything was transported to the nursing home and the vases were filled with water, becoming a cheery, long-lasting holiday room decoration.

As with worthwhile projects, more people–non-Garden Club members– wanted to participate and did. More gifts for nursing home residents to enjoy each year.

So while the fresh plant material decreased, the amount of baskets increased every December, ultimately filling long tables along one side of a long wall in the main room, of the Woman’s Club.Nursing Home Baskets

Clicking the link in the first paragraph, unearths a long list of suggested gifts that you realize would be welcomed by strangers as well as loved ones. Only for loved ones, forget the food restrictions unless they’re necessary and bring one or some of the following:

–Snacks and goodies they love.

–Picture frames (with family or grandchild photo). Just received a Christmas card from a dear old friend, a widow. Enclosed is a picture of her 5-year-old granddaughter and note beginning: “This is who brings joy to me.”  How many times do we reaffirm the importance of grandchildren to grandmothers?

–Flicker, Apple, Shutterfly etc. generate photo albums, books, calendars etc. There’s still time! 
–Games. Do you remember anagrams? Played by one or many. Good for the brain, I’d guess. What about a new attractive deck of cards for solitaire–or any game to play with family when they visit? Being engaged in something together adds a degree of normalcy.

–Light-weight cozy blankets and cozy soft socks. Since the latter lack rubber non-skid stuff on bottom, they’re for keeping feet snug and warm, not for elderly walking.  cozy sockxsoft blanket

 If ever in doubt about what thoughtful deeds mean to elders–

Dear Ladies,

My nice little plant is doing very nicely and is happy.  The Christmas tray and notepaper plus pens are a wonderful gift. We are all very appreciative of all the goodies you sent to us. You make our holidays much more exciting. We are old and sick, not dead. I hope you all know that your thoughtfulness is appreciated.

 My Christmas basket from last year still decorates my room.

Thank you and God Bless.


Note: Newsworthy (right sidebar). Links to timely information and research from top universities and respected professionals, plus some practical and fun stuff to help parents age well.


99 Years Old: Still Sending and Writing Messages on Christmas Cards

Sending the Christmas Cards

I phone 99-year-old Sr. Advisor R and ask the usual “How are you?” question. Response: “I’ve already written notes on 35 Christmas cards that have gone out…and there are more to go.  I’ve received 30-some cards. When you’re old I think people want to know how you are so I send back a card with a note.

You know I’ve said I wasn’t sending cards any longer, but how can I not when people are so good to me!

…I’ve already been given gifts–a lot of good candy, a huge poinsettia I’ve put in the kitchen, the girls (neighbors in their 40’s and 50’s) made me soup which I love especially in the winter ’cause you know it’s cold and it warms me up, and Carol brought some custard yesterday.

Did I tell you I received the most beautifully packaged box of chocolate candy from Dennis?” (a contractor who sends one of his men to do handyman work when R needs it. Dennis’s father, now deceased, helped R in that way when he ran the business). Old fashion loyalty and caring, and in a large city too–how can R not send a card and write the thank you note.

R. recovered from her broken hip–it will be 2 years ago the end of January. Since then she uses a cane when going out of her home.  “A remarkable recovery,” according to the doctors, and proof broken hip recovery can be achieved by a 97-year-old. Currently R is slowly making progress with a recent nonhealing skin wound/cut mentioned in a previous post. The doctor at the wound care center has been a Godsend; and the fact that R is finally making progress has brightened her outlook considerably.  I assume that’s the reason she changed her mind and decided to send cards again.

Everyone says Sr. Advisor R is “amazing” and clearly she is. And aren’t we lucky when we can be around inspirational old people. We can learn–from their example and their wisdom–to age well.

That said, I’ve been thinking that I’d like to introduce several new amazing elders on this blog.  If you know an older person who fits that description, and wish to submit his/her name–along with the relationship to you and specific experiences that support featuring him/her on Help! Aging Parents–please contact me at my gmail address ( or click ‘CONTACT’ tab above).  Many of our elders have so much wisdom to share and no one needs to know their name unless they wish to share that also.


Aging Parents: 10 Fun, Useful, Inexpensive Small Christmas Stocking Stuffers for Seniors (2015 update)

        10 Small, Inexpensive Gifts Help Parents Age Well in Various Ways

1. A wide-ish rubber band (often found around produce like broccoli) can be stretched around something that’s hard-to-unscrew–a little bottle cap, a jar lid of any size. (May be a problem for arthritic fingers.) Unlike the contraptions or rubber disks one buys, this costs nothing, takes up no room, is replaced when worn out or lost and gives the gripping power most older people, especially, are losing…or have basically lost.

2. A crystal nail file seems to be easier on nails than an emery board. I found one at an Arizona Walgreen’s for $.99. Don’t know the make; didn’t even know there were differences. My first ones were bought years ago at a small fair in the park in Republic, Washington (population around 1000). Think it was imported crystal, came in small and medium sizes. I bought one of each–$5 and $7 respectively. I’ve since Googled and guess there are differences (click for some ratings). Actually my $.99 one seems fine and after losing the first two, I’m glad to have this one.

3. Have you thought about Lottery tickets? Price: you decide. While hey always add a bit of excitement to life, but think of the excitement they can provide for bored elders.

4. NetflixIf Dad were alive I would order his favorite movie, School Ties. For my husband’s father we would begin with The Treasure of Sierra Madre. And we would attach a note inviting ourselves to watch the movies with them…and bring some snacks….or bring them to us for a meal and a movte. And then, of course, there’s always Casablanca.
 5. Forever stampAttractive FOREVER postage stamps are a handy time saver for older people who don’t have  bills paid automatically and/or still write letters.

6. Panasonic’s Nose Hair Trimmer was older men’s most popular 2012 purchase according to Hammacher Schlemmer’s NYC store ($19.95). Check catalog: Trimmer may be a bit less expensive other places.

7. iPhone custom cases (with grandchildren’s photo?) Check Shutterfly
ou can also order the Christmas Stocking, personalized from

8. Socks in the stocking?! Yes! Non-slip with traction-treads to wear around the house. Check current report from NIH’s (Nat’l Institute of Health) library about them if falling is a worry for elders. Definitely check ratings, read reviews. (When socks are too thin and have little dots as treads, the dots can cause discomfort on bottom of feet.)

9.  Mini-flashlightMAGlite makes one of–it not the–best. The mini-MAGlite has impressive range. Click preceding link first, then click pictures of the first two. The keychain-size (Solitaire) size “can light up an object at the far end of a parking lot,” but may be a bit small for elders to easily manipulate. I prefer the next size (2-cell) because of the enlarged “head.

10. TracFone cell phone (See reader’s suggestion in “Comments” below–as well as comments in Best Cell Phones for Seniors. Scroll way down for both.

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Note: For additional ideas–click 2014 Aging Parents’ Advent Calendar of 24 Small Gifts.

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


Aging Parents: 6 Last-Minute Holiday Gifts–Exciting, Entertaining, Practical, Easily-Obtainable–update 12/18/13

Need a last-minute gift for an older person without the enduring the hectic last-minute crowds?  Here’s my short list.  It highlights exciting, pleasurable and practical gifts that can help parents and grandparents age well.

  • Lottery tickets, whether they are the scratch-off or wait-for-selection-of-the-All lit up on Christmas Evewinning numbers kind, add excitement to life.
  • A drive with you to see the holiday decorations. Especially at night, when many older people are insecure about going out, the light displays are a great treat.
  • Open Table gift card simple, free sign up. You select restaurant (from ***** on down, in 33 cities), select card design, and amount of $ you wish to spend. More info: (888) 503-7558 or Gift card emailed to you to print out that same day. Many older people prefer their largest meal at lunch for various reasons; whatever meal, they can invite friends if you provide enough $.  
  • Netflix conveniently provides seniors, who don’t go out to the movies, many hours of entertainment.
  • Filling the car with gas for a senior on fixed income, or helping with other such essentials is a welcome gift.  While shopping and taking out my led pocket magnifying glass to help the saleswoman read the care label on a coat, an 81-year-old lady, buying a jacket for her granddaughter, joined the conversation. When I asked her what she’d like for Christmas, she quickly replied “my health,” then added “and someone filling up my gas tank….I just bought gas and it’s so expensive.”
  • An IOU to take non-driving seniors shopping/to the doctor etc. and back.

While Netflix comes with a gift card, and lottery tickets speak for themselves, making a card for the last two gifts only requires a recipe/index card or a piece of paper onto which a picture of a car (gas-tank side showing?) is pasted.  Happy gift-giving.

PS  While not easily obtainable (because it takes a while to get), an appointment at one of the leading hospitals’ geriatric departments may be the best gift you can ever give a parent with health issues. Click the link and read Karen’s short letter about her mother’s experience.

2 Technology Gifts for Non-Tech-Savvy, Lonesome Seniors

People Change, Not Much, however….

As adult children we have the ability to view parents in a different “light” than when we were young.  Thus,

  • If–thinking back–parents were never self-starters, chances are this will never change.
  • If they didn’t initiate relationships when they were young, what makes us think they will be any different when they’re old?

Indeed, certain personality traits may have been masked because of a people-loving spouse who orchestrated the social life. Or perhaps natural relationships that develop among parents of children’s friends, work colleagues, neighbors– created a ready-made social group.

On the other hand, perhaps normally sociable, connected parents have just had bad luck, have lost friends to death or relocating, and can’t get going again.  (After 3 months, consider it depression that they should get help for.)

The truth is–the lonesome, isolated-feeling of older parents can spill over to adult children, burdening them with an emotionally-weighed-down feeling.  Another truth is, lonesome seniors aren’t easy/fun to be around–so it becomes a vicious cycle.

While we can’t change who a parent is, holidays like Christmas present an opportunity to delicately insert something into aging parents’ lives that can help them age well (if enjoying life more qualifies for this category).

Here’s where the Presto Printer Mailbox (see last post) could come to the rescue. Connections to others can come in daily, with “deliveries” much more often than snail mail.  And connections with others is one of the three most important factors in helping people age well, according to every study I’ve read.

If this works, parents can graduate to PawPaw (see last post), where they can receive and send mail. PawPaw has a free trial period. Presto has a 60-day-trial period, after which there’s a refund if not satisfied.

While both of these may be a bit pricey for some, it’s the kind of gift a family can join together to give.  And what better gift can a family give than the gift of connecting with others…one of the most important factors in helping people–in this case our parents or even grandparents–age well.


Aging Parents-Holiday Gifts: When “No Big Deal” Means a Great Deal (updated 2012)

We know the holidays can be a difficult time for many.  Yet there’s an opportunity to bring a sliver of  joy to them as we try to help parents and grandparents and older people age well.
What may be a little thing to us–(making a nursing home basket like those featured on my blog last week) can surprise with its impact…..
*  *  *
Dear Ladies,
My nice little plant is doing very nicely and is happy.  The Christmas tray and notepaper plus pens are a wonderful gift. We are all very appreciative of all the goodies you sent to us. You make our holidays much more exciting. We are old and sick, not dead. I hope you all know that your thoughtfulness is appreciated.

My Christmas basket from last year still decorates my room.
Thank you and God Bless.
*  *  *
While no more important than a gnat’s eyelash when compared with the challenges of the older people in nursing homes, normal age-related changes affect many people’s eyesight as well as strength as they age.  For them two of my most favorite, most helpful small gifts.

Click to Enlarge

1.  A well-designed pocket magnifying glass by Great Point–LED light and 3x magnification with a simple pull. (It also comes in a low vision model called “Low Vision Amber Contrast.”) It was carried by Staples, The Container Store, and Office Max. This year it’s advertised at Barnes and Noble. Just enter it in the search box. I have the red one pictured at right. 
The Great Point website gives more details along with reviews. 

2.  The best jar opener I’ve ever used, no matter the size of the screw-top–and it’s FREE: a wide rubber band (found on produce in grocery stores or produce markets).  Note how it grips the cap on the jar/bottle.  Older people’s grips weaken, making twisting off tops more difficult.  Rubber band to the rescue. Just twist and turn.  PS– it takes up no room.
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The most valued gifts needn’t be large or expensive, we know that. Indeed it’s the little things that often mean the most. And both of these gifts–as well as the baskets for those in nursing homes–enhance older people’s existence. Doesn’t that contribute to their aging well?

Changing weekly: “Of Current Interest”(right sidebar). Links to timely information and research from top universities, plus some free and some fun stuff–to help parents age well.