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.

6 Last-Minute Holiday Gifts: Exciting, Entertaining, Easily Obtainable–2013

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-winning-numbers-kind, add excitement to life.
  • Christmas LightsA 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.


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. 

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.


2012 Holiday Gifts for Aging Fathers and Grandfathers–3

Why do gifts for older men seem to take more thought and ingenuity than gifts for women? Or is this a question basically asked by women–who, we might assume, purchase more gifts than men? Although tagged as aging mens’ gift ideas, this list is clearly appropriate for aging women.

5. Hearing:  Older people’s hearing loss is a problem for them and for us, so think about–

  • Assistive listening systems: for TV watchers who need very high volume ( while others in the room don’t.  To educate yourself, scroll down on the link to “Assistive Listening Devices.”
  • Amplified Telephones=better conversations for all.  provides a quick education as does the  “Amplified Telephones” section of this U. of Calif at San Francisco Medical Center site: enhancement_devices/ 
  • An appointment with an audiologist. (Possibly locate the audiologist, make appointment, go with parent to appointment.) To lessen any emotional overlay, this may be most effective with objective reporting of facts (eg. “I don’t know whether you noticed, Dad, but yesterday I told you John just phoned and you answered ‘But I just talked to Joan two minutes ago.’ You’ve been doing a lot of that lately, Do you think an appointment with an audiologist would be a good idea?”  I admit that’s not the kind of gift every parent wants, but something appealing can always be added from other categories.

If hearing is an issue check this NY Times link: which mentions Clarity’s phones,

I pay little attention to company’s emails sent to my blog’s gmail, but because of the NY Times article, this interested me. Click the amplified phones picture for Clarity’s offerings.  Some phones may meet an aging parent’s needs. Also Googling “telephones for hearing loss” provides additional phone options.

6. Pampering

  • Starbucks VIA ready brew individual instant coffee packets–regular or decaf in 3 or 12 packs for coffee lovers. Dad probably wouldn’t buy it for himself. Easy, microwaveable, no mess.. Pricey, however, COSTO carried it and may still.

  • A massage or a professional shave
  • Nice pajamas
  • Comfortable bathrobe

Vision: We know aging produces vision changes in many.

  • Large print books (for dads who still like the feel of a book); large print newspaper, large print crossword puzzle book.
  • The Kindle (which I hear many like best) or other electronic book, where the font can be enlarged–a Godsend I hear for people with vision issues.
  • The pocket-lighted-slide magnifying glass (Black & Silver Pocket LED) from Great Point Light offers magnification and light with a simple pull. Takes up little space, is light weight, not pricy ($9.95), remains lit without having to keep a finger on any button, great for reading (menus/bills) in dark restaurant. It was carried at the Container Store, Staples, and Office Max last year. Haven’t physically checked this year. This website offers more details, including how-to information for selecting a magnifier.

We’re into Chanukah, with two weeks left until Christmas. Here’s hoping that the last 4 posts have helped with your holiday shopping.


2012 Holiday Gifts for Aging Fathers and Grandfathers–2

  • Health and Hygiene continued from Dec. 4th, but I decided it deserves its own post….I’ll continue with gift categories 5-7, Hearing, Pampering, and Vision before week’s end.

Old Feet: are not gifts. But good, old feet are a gift.  Helping preserve them doesn’t seem to be at the top of most older people’s list of priorities—until problems arise. Now think gifts for aging feet.

  • 1. The first thing that comes to mind is a good toe nail clipper for those who have dexterity and don’t have diabetes. Dr. Pamela Karman, Diplomate/American Board of Foot Surgeons, adds that toenails soften when soaked in warm water for a few minutes–making them easier to cut. So a note about the warm water, accompanying with the clipper, would seem to be a good idea.
  • 2. Also consider Gifting (includes arranging for) regular pedicure appointments for those who have dexterity or diabetes problems or can no longer easily reach to cut their toenails. (You can make the gift certificate.) At a certain age cutting toe nails becomes difficult (for both men and women). I only realized this when Dad, at 90, said he was going to Mom’s hairdresser’s and would be back shortly.  Since Mother had died, I was curious.  “Oh,” he said, “many of us from the nearby golf course now go there to have our toenails trimmed.  I can still take the golf ball out of the cup, but it’s difficult for me to bend and reach that far to cut my toenails.”  Who knew?
  • 3. Is gifting an appointment with a podiatrist another gift idea? Yes, if deformed toenails, bunions or anything that could interfere with balance is an issue. While I’m not certain how to discretely detect these problems, beginning a discussion using some of the facts below can be a good starting place.

A NY Times column cites Dr. Richard Scher, head of the Nail Section at Weil Cornell Medical College, explaining that finger and toe nails’ growth rate rapidly decreases with age; thus both kinds of nails thicken due to the piling up of cells, although fingernails don’t thicken as much. (Finger nails have a slower growth rate, the result of filing and buffing which thins them).

Additionally, long-term trauma and poor circulation take their toll on toe nails, as do injuries, stubbing, wearing ill-fitting shoes, nail-bed injuries and nail fungus.

I discussed the above with Dr. Karman. She suggests having pedicures once a month after age 55-60, reiterating “this especially holds true for people with diabetes or unsteady hands.”

Since balance can be involved, and poor balance can lead to falls, make certain bedroom slippers have nonskid soles and favorite shoes have heels and soles that are in good shape.

  • 4.  A good pair of bedroom slippers with nonskid soles–a good gift idea!
  • 5.  Arranging shoe repair and perhaps a shoe shine for favorite, worn out shoes–another idea. I know Dad hated to give up his favorite shoes, but it was important they ensured good balance, which meant nonskid soles and no worn-down heels.
  • 6. Balance is a major concern for most older people and gifting the alert pendant or bracelet can be a lifesaver for a living-alone aging parent….if they’ll accept it and don’t leave it in a drawer! Check this 12/28/10, post and the 1/2011 part-2 post that follows re: alert pendants reviewed.
  • 7.  What about new socks? Check out the sock supply. Do socks compliment clothing? Is aging vision creating confusion between black and navy? If treatment for toe nail fungus takes place, socks must be throughly disinfected in washing machine or purchase new socks….otherwise fungus will come back, according to Dr. Karman.
  • 8.  Would a small flashlight to keep in the sock drawer be helpful in distinguishing colors? Check out the Maglite. It’s a quality little flashlight that is carried by many stores (a store locator is on this site) and on line.






Gifts for Aging Fathers and Grandfathers–1 (2013)


More gifts ideas for aging fathers and grandfathers–than I think a man could possibly want–filled my Father’s Day gifts posts last year: 8 categories, arranged alphabetically, from “Accessories and Clothing” to “Vision.” I reread them, remembering the time and outside-the-box thinking that went into compiling the list.

Not needing to reinvent the wheel, I’ve updated the list and added a bit. I’ll post it in 2 parts so it’s not overwhelming. Hoping that your shopping is made easier and that the aging men in your life will have smiles on their faces as they open their presents.

1.  Accessories/Clothing:

  • Cane (measured correctly) or walking stick
  • Hat (to shade a bald/potentially balding head)
  • Sport shirt. (Dad liked long sleeve ones to protect his arms from skin cancer–a definite concern as he aged.)
  • Sleeveless cardigan sweater vest (not over the head). Easier to get off and on if buttons aren’t a problem. Older people run cold. Dad wore it at home. It also looked good under a jacket when he went out. (This style is hard to find…know someone who knits?)
  • An easy-to-use umbrella collapsible–opens and closes with the push of a button. (Totes makes a good one.)

2.  Computers–especially designed for seniors: Check the 6 options in my May post  .

  • A-Plus Senior Computer
  • Big Screen Live
  • Eldy
  • GO computer
  • WOW computer
  • Pzee computer

For the even less-technology-talented, check out

3.  Entertainment:

  • Subscription to a Favorite Magazine
  • Netflix
  • Subscription to newspaper–financial, current local or hometown they grew up in
  • Tickets to sporting events etc.–accompany Dad or have Dad take a friend.
  • A short outing with Dad (fishing trip, golf game, movie, zoo, his old neighborhood if it’s near–you might learn additional family history).
  • Add a premium TV channel
4.  Health/Hygiene:
  • Membership to the YMCA or a gym
  • Membership to Silver Sneakers
  • Toe Nail Clippers: for elders with still-steady hands who don’t have diabetes.
  • Panosonic’s Nose and Facial Hair Trimmer is older men’s most popular 2012 purchase according to the NYC Hammacher Schlemmer store  or catalogue–($19.95)
  • Does a good blood pressure gauge help old, older, and very old men age well? Recently an easy-to-use OMRON intellisense wrist blood pressure gauge, like the one pictured, was used on a patient in one of the doctor’s offices located in one of NYC’s top hospitals. (I phoned to double-check it out.) Check it out with your dad’s/granddad’s doctor.Product Details
    Omron Bp652 7 Series Blood Pressure Wrist Unit.  double-check on this UTube Video.
  • A great pair of shoes for walking
  • Hammacher Schlemmer’s (catalog: 800-543-3366) full screen pedometer (2 5/8 Hx 1 1/2 Wx 1/2 D). Steps walked, distance travelled, calories burned, time elapsed, average pace–all seen at once, on one screen operated by one button.
  • This medication reminder was featured in a respected hospital’s magazine, sent to seniors in surrounding communities.  Good idea for forgetful fathers (and mothers)?

To Be Completed Next Post……Until then, happy shopping

May 2014 Help! Aging Parents was again a finalist. Check all finalists’ blogs out by clicking the 2014 finalist badge at rightAnd many thanks again for your vote.

2012 Holiday Gifts for Aging Mothers-2 (updated 11/26/12)

Fashionable, Appropriate Clothing and Accessories continued…

If we subscribe to “look good, feel better,” a new outfit or an addition to an older person’s wardrobe that pulls an outfit together (and meets the criteria discussed in last Saturday’s post) just has to play a part in helping parents age well. And who knows, maybe an aging father will look twice at his bride of many years and give her a compliment!

Draper’s & Damon’s (800-843-1174) advertises a “full selection of misses, petites, and women’s” clothing.  They also have: flat-front pull-on pants as well as those with all-around elastic waist bands, Alfred Dunner, Da Rue (more pricey, mother loved their “blouson tops,”) additional unnamed manufacturers, and many separates shown with color-coordinated jewelry.

This takes the guesswork out of coordinating a stylish outfit. Skirts (both long and a bit below-the-knee styles) and coordinated sporty jackets and pants in velour and other fabrics round out their offerings. They also have stores in 5 states.

Eileen Fisher has shops throughout the US (scroll down to the store locator on her homepage).  Her knits are well- made, washable and pack easily– basically wrinkle-free. Perfect for traveling.

I always thought of them for the more full-figured woman, but The Lab (her outlet) is nearby and I’ve loved wearing her small sizes.  Styles are “today”–smart and stylish–some styles are perfect for older women. And for me, at least, they have lasted a long time–retaining their shape and fit. Many of her knit slacks have elastic waist bands. The ones I’ve seen fit the body well–don’t look “bunchy” around the hips.

Eileen Fisher is carried by many of the “better” department stores and is somewhat pricey. Lord & Taylor usually has some of her clothing on sale (on website, in catalog). So check out the sale clothing also. Many of her clothing is such that “flabby arms” won’t be an issue.

Serengeti’s catalog  ( comes regularly to 99-year-old R’s home. Clothing prices are mostly moderate. Serengeti carries Alfred Dunner, plus everything from pants suits, to pull-on pants, tops, jackets, skirts, sleepware, jewelry, accessories. There’s a lot to choose from!

Finally the Tog Shop,, especially Alfred Dunner and Koret, two manufacturers whose clothes aging mothers can easily wear and look well-put-together.

  • Alfred Dunner’s pull-on pants coordinate with tops.  The all-around elastic waist bands, while easy to pull up, can be an issue for certain figures; but not necessarily, when hidden under coordinated tops.
  • Koret eliminates all-around elastic on some clothes, manufacturing flat front pants and skirts with elastic in the back or has “hidden elastic” in the waist that expands up to two inches on each side.

Also Google manufacturers–both Alfred Dunner and Koret, for example, have on-line outlets.

Allie Clark says:

As a former caregiver, geriatric manager and all around good daughter, I smiled about your blog post regarding clothes for senior ladies and would like to add my two cents: It would be incredibly thoughtful and probably well received to make sure that the elderly and/or disabled lady in your life has a comfortable new outfit to wear for the holidays. Don’t wait til Christmas or Chanukah or gift-giving celebration night to give it to her!

Your suggestion of the line of clothes by Alfred Dunner is spot on. They are stylish, color coordinated, modest, stretch coordinates in washable fabrics that are warmer knits in the winter and light in the summer. My mother, in her later years, would have loved to have picked out her own Alfred Dunner ensemble on the internet without having to go shopping, but I wanted to add that both Macy’s and JC Penney’s also carry this brand and had fantastic deals and discounts at the mall today and again, with free shipping right now, on line.

As for my dad, who told me several times in his later years that he did NOT want any new clothes, I just made sure that a choice of a nice maroon L.L. Bean sweater vest, a hunter green cardigan and a burberry plaid scarf were dry cleaned and on the ready, and then no matter what else he wanted to wear, he always looked nice and felt fantastic in pictures and in person.

Happy holidays to seniors everywhere and all best wishes for the new year ahead!