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.


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: A Great Mother’s Day Gift–Inexpensive Yet Priceless

…So Thoughtful and One-of-a Kind


Don’t we always notice family photos when visiting elders? Whether at home, in assisted living, or in nursing homes, the dearly departed alongside fresh young faces of grandchildren and great-grandchildren occupy prime space. I’m not old enough yet to know if there’s comfort having them around but I’m thinking there is.

I love reusing stuff and this wonderfully-decorated picture frame caught my eye several years ago at my friend Linda’s home. She decorated it for her mother with an old photo of the two of them, surrounded by various mementos and “stuff.” Click photo to enlarge. Personalization possibilities are limited only by our imagination. 

When asked, Linda generously agreed to let me photograph her frame for my blog. Such a great gift for Mother’s Day, or any occasion deserving a truly personal gift. While technology has changed our method of taking and storing photos, I think frames will endure to preserve special memories. Clearly true for the older generation.

–a picture frame with mat (Linda likes black )
–a glue that dries clear and is strong enough to hold the weight of the “stuff”
–old photo of Mom and you–or your choice
–unmatched earrings, small brooches and pins, chain, tie tacks, college sorority/fraternity/honorary pins, buttons to fill empty spaces, whatever you can imagine.
–if wanted: a stand for the picture frame (stands now in “Clearance” at TJ Maxx store near me)

Years ago, Linda tells me, a friend– whose mother had died a short time before–asked a favor. She wanted to use items belonging to her mother in a way that would keep memories alive. She brought Linda one of her mother’s rings and other meaningful jewelry and Linda produced her first frame. Note: The matting inside the frame is easily decorated with some creativity and minimal skill. For those with no skill or creativity, gather the needed “stuff” together and ask a favor of a friend like Linda.

This is one of my two favorite gift ideas, the other being the personal note in the heart-shaped-box  that Monique shared with me several years ago; reposted every year in advance of Valentine’s Day.

Both gifts must make aging parents very happy. And doesn’t that help them 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.


Passover and Easter: Another chance to lift elders’ spirits and Help Parents Age Well

Grocery stores, drug stores, and Dollar-type stores have countless inexpensive items for Easter baskets.

IMG_2981A little cash and a little creativity, and ribbon and some cellophane if you like, can turn an ordinary basket into an unexpected surprise that lifts spirits and brings smiles.

   Passover  April 3-11
Easter April 5

The Last Supper was a Passover Seder, thus Easter and Passover are linked calendar-wise and as celebrations of miracles:
The Exodus of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt with the Red Sea’s parting.
The Resurrection of Christ after the Crucifixion.

IMG_2973Our elders fondly recall traditions that brought generations together: Passover with Seders and children looking for the hidden matzo; Easter with church services and children looking for Easter eggs. And always a special meal.

Holidays evoke warmth of family, feelings of togetherness. Yet we know holidays can be depressing for older people, especially those living alone, void of children and invitations to join family celebrations. On the other hand, opportunities for bringing pleasure to old and/or lonely people during Easter and Passover are many:


Click to enlarge photos

Attending Easter services together, then…
…make the outing special by driving to a place with beautiful surroundings
…going to a restaurant in town where aging parents who don’t get out much can take a short walk (walker? wheelchair?), enjoy seeing normal activity and the window displays.
…having a meal at home with family–togetherness, conversation, participation…

…When Easter or Passover meals are at home and elders want to help, accept the offer. We know how good it feels to contribute.

One of our former Senior Advisors who lived into her 90’s, proudly reported that she made: chopped liver, matzo balls, gefilte fish, and horseradish for the Passover seder. Not easy at 89.  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–there wasn’t anything left.”

Last but not least, thoughts about the frail, isolated elderly who can’t get out easily: A visit is a gift in an of itself. Additional options:

IMG_2977…Bring… a little lunch or snack (“nothing big,” I’m told) to share while you talk (consider dietary restrictions if known)
…a few holiday decorated cookies or cupcakes easy-care living plant–possibilities: philodendron [sweetheart plant], fern [nephrolepis], spathiphyllum [peace lilly–wallisi variety] or kalanchoe.
…a flowering plant for a sunny indoor spot or patio
…a bouquet of flowers

….allergies a problem? What about a basket filled with bunnies or matzos, and candies and a leafy plant.

Easter and Passover celebrate miracles. While we can’t make miracles, showing thoughtfulness to our elders is precious. (Actually it can be a miracle if normally unthoughtful family members decide to “buy in.”) And adding interest to life helps parents and the elders we care about age well.

IMG_2985.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: 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.

Aging Parents’ Advent Calendar of 24 small gifts

Doesn’t a small gift a day sound like a way to continually brighten up the holiday season for older people? Whether living at home or in a care center, don’t we all love a gift! Here’s my list of easily purchased, inexpensive Christmas or Chanukah gifts, keeping in mind:

Most older people
–don’t like clutter.
–don’t want what they don’t need.
–appreciate gifts they use up.

special bottled drink

Most gifts can be eaten or used up–but not all. Purchase them in any order as the inspiration hits! And definitely click links to anything on the list. Click photos to enlarge.   Think DECEMBER

Battery-powered candle

$3.99 bouquet-Trader Joe’s

 1. Wide rubber band*
 2. Box of candy
 3. Music
 4. Snow globe
 5. Lottery ticket
 6. Miniature Christmas tree
 7. Personalized Coffee Mug
 8. Box of instant cocoa or special tea bags
 9. Box of cookies
10. Bouquet of flowers**
11. Postage stamps (for sending Chanukah or Christmas cards)
12. December magazine focused on their interests
13. Manageable-size holiday door wreath
21. Lightweight throw blanket
14. Framed photo of family
15. Small succulent needing little care (Red Kalanchoe)
16. Bottle: wine, beer, sparkling water, flavored water
17. New lipstick for woman/new socks for man
18. Battery-powered flickering candle
19. Small basket of favorite fruit
20. Hand or after-shave lotion
21. 2015 Calendar–(personalized from Shutterfly?)                                                                      

Red Kalanchoe-Green container

Red Kalanchoe-Green container

The last 3 days–repeat a previously winning idea: lottery ticket? cookies? something to drink (hot or cold)? flowers? fruit? candy? Your inspiration will raise the spirits of aging parents and elders we care about…and help them age well.


Battery-powered flickering candle at night


Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

*The rubber band is the best gift for unscrewing jar and bottle caps (older people’s hands are weaker) and it’s free! (See photo at right, showing 2 rubber bands–pink one at work!)

**Trader Joe’s $3.99 bouquet of flowers (without vase). Didn’t use all the flowers in the original bouquet to do this arrangement. A bargain for flower lovers.

Note: Definition–Oxford Dictionaries: ad·vent  noun: advent; plural noun: advents
1. the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event.
2. the coming or second coming of Christ

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

Terrariums: Easy Care Live Plants in Little Landscapes–Easily Made, Great Gifts..

a glass container, chiefly or wholly enclosed, for growing and displaying plants”

Once planted, if enclosed, there’s next-to-no upkeep.
Note: Click all terrarium pics to enlarge
I was given the airtight, octagon terrarium (above) decades ago after an illness. I loved it. It needed very little care. Its plastic octagonal bottom contained small plants and its octagonal top lifts off when they need water or cutting back. Ultimately one plant got too tall. I took it out and easily replaced it with a tiny fern purchased at a landscape nursery. It transplanted easily and stayed small, aided by the humid environment. What a perfect gift for young and old. I was hooked.
Fittonia and ficus pumila quercifolia. Click or double-click for up close with frog and bottles

Click or double-click for up-close view of fittonia, ficus pumila quercifolia, frog, and bottles.

30+ years later only one (tall) plant remains. It has grown well with fittonia (striped leaf) and ficus pumila quercifolia (miniature oak leaf fig) for many years. I just cut back some fittonia before taking this picture. Terrarium needs little care beyond receiving small amounts of water a few time a year and some cutting back with a small scissors. Fittonia  leaves are all less than an inch; ficus leaves even smaller.

Since then I’ve made countless terrariums in varied containers–including this little hinged-roof, leaded greenhouse (made by a retired NJ policeman); purchased at a local nursery. Not for beginners; it’s not airtight.
Greenhouse terrarium with hinged roof (click to enlarge)

Click to enlarge. Flowering plants–sinningias pusilla and white sprite. Clay pots suck moisture– need added water and watching so they don’t dry out.

Creating an environment with small plants–for relaxation, for friends, and for older people in care centers at holiday time is fun–becomes addictive. The greenhouse terrarium won many “BEST” awards at spring flower shows (with more flowering plants in little pots than shown above). Interestingly maintaining little plants in a terrarium requires less work than a non-terrarium single plant–and delights onlookers (and judges).
PURCHASING PLANTS for Enclosed Terrariums
Smallish, slow-growing plants that like high humidity are a must–when the goal is easy/minimum care for aging parents and older people. Once planted and watered, they have no other watering needs because they create their own environment if their lid/top/plastic wrap is on tight. Only when plants are grown in something big like a covered fish tank, can regular-size plants be used.
Once planted, a terrarium is good to go–no upkeep– except occasional water (plants will look droopy) and pruning. Covered terrariums can’t tolerate direct sunlight. Heat hitting the glass (or plastic) will immediately bake (and kill) the plants. ‘Nuf said.
You can purchase terrariums or….
                                                                       MAKE YOUR OWN
Any dish or glass-enclosed vessel is fair game as a planter. I found a great glass piece at TJ Maxx for $5 because its top was missing. I turned it into a terrarium by wrapping plastic wrap over the top opening to keep it airtight.

Supplies are simple. The soil is simple potting soil (no added fertilizer, the idea is to keep things small). If deciding to fertilize, 1/4-1/8 strength of recommended amount, once in spring, will do it. I often forget; the plants don’t seem to notice and the flowering ones still bloom.

While I don’t use moss, many people do as pictured in the carefully-selected links below and this Philadelphia Flower Show entry above left. I often add little rocks, wood, and glass or pottery objects. I also line the container’s bottom with charcoal (see links below ). Someone said “it keeps the soil sweet.” I don’t know precisely what that means but it works I guess. Container, charcoal, soil, plants, water, light (but no direct sun) and lid/top does it. How simple is that!

Before the holidays, as a gift, why not make a terrarium? Older people, especially, are enchanted by these little creations. Nature is restorative. Watching these manageable little gardens grow and bloom adds interest to life…and that helps parents age well.

Fittonia (red stripe) link: has a fine reputation and excellent (often hard-to-find) plants. They advise if plants do well in terrariums. (I have the white stripe–not red– fittonia.) complete, good instructions–an especially excellent site for everything. check pictures for ideas. You can make them for much less.
Commercial presentation: terrarium designs, purchasing. Beter planting instructions above.  Scroll way down for purchasing info and photos of sinningias (White Sprite and Pusilla seen in greenhouse terrarium above).