Aging Parents: Feel-Good Outing Ideas~ After A Long, Cold Winter

2013 Philadelphia Flower Show

2013 Philadelphia Flower Show

Feel-good Outings

Aging parents needn’t be couch potatoes to feel depression or cabin fever due to a harsh winter. It’s easy for anyone! Cold, an absence of sunshine, and slippery sidewalks can make anyone feel cranky, if not depressed. “Trapped in the house,” “Looking at the four walls.” I’ve heard these expressions from elders, no doubt so have you.

And “cranky” may not go away easily. Negatives like a bad health diagnosis, another friend’s problem,  the world’s problems, not to mention loss of a friend, pet, or part of a support system (dentist, hair dresser) add to being miserable.

If one is clinically depressed, we’re dealing with something entirely different and it needs to be checked out with a parent’s physician. If it’s crankiness, however, getting out of the house for something interesting, different, fun and/or entertaining can make a difference. And if we introduce the plan ahead of time, elders can look forward to the event for many days, which helps lift spirits. Sr. Advisor R calls that “a carrot.”

Always dependable: a movie (not Netflix in this instance) out of the house, at the theater…not far away. Smell (eat?) the popcorn, fall asleep if necessary in a comfortable seat, escape the unhappy present temporarily for the screen’s environment.

For feel-good outings and (depending on where you live) a farther-away destination with aging parents, consider:

1. Heard Indian Market, March 1 and 2 in Phoenix, Arizona. Escape the winter weather.  A jacket or sweater suffices in the early morning; by mid-morning be ready to shed it.  Indian Market offers outdoor entertainment (dance, music), good food, exhibitions of basket making, weaving, pottery, jewelry making… And there’s no better place to view a huge assortment of–and purchase–fine crafts, inexpensive to very expensive, from over 600 American Indians. Although I’ve seen people in wheel chairs, aging parents with decent mobility do better. The market is set up in the very large parking area and the adjoining open space of the Heard Museum.

2. The Philadelphia Flower Show--March 1-9: the biggest Flower Shows in the US is, on the other hand, handicap accessible. And it’s glorious! Being totally surrounded in the Convention Center by Spring, in Winter–especially this year–is priceless.  (Wheelchairs are for rent until they run out.)

That said, check out membership. Dual membership comes with 2 free tickets and that’s a savings; but what I especially like is being able to rest in comfortable chairs and have free tea and/or coffee in the Members’ Lounge, as opposed to sitting on the hard folding chairs along the walls at the perimeter of the show. The show is so big, everyone takes a break at some point.

3. Portland Flower Show,  “Storybook Gardens,” March 6-9 in Maine. Website is currently being updated so come back soon for more info.

4. The Boston Flower and Garden Show, March 12-15, at Boston’s Seaport World Trade Center. Have heard wonderful reports in past years. Over 150 home and garden vendors, huge display gardens, horticulture society representation, and garden lectures this year. Limited wheelchairs on a first come, first serve basis.

4. Chicago Flower and Garden Show, March 15-23, is the last of the early East and Mid-West Flower Shows.

5. San Francisco Flower and Garden Show, March 16-23 in San Mateo, Calif. Looks good.

6. The Coronado (Calif) Flower Show,  April 27-29, is no doubt wonderful.  The San Diego area is a gardener’s paradise. And the landscape at Balboa Park, where the famous San Diego zoo is located and not far from Coronado, is horticulturally gorgeous. Simply being in the Coronado/La Jolla area can lift the spirit.
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If flowers aren’t for everyone, what about auto and boat shows to help elders forget winter and look forward? Check out the 2014 Auto Shows of North America Schedule. Also check out the calendar. Some boat shows have just begun–or are about to begin now–including:

1. New England Boat Show (Boston) Feb. 22-March 2
2. St. Louis Boat and Sportshow (Feb. 26-March 2)

There’s a World Flower Show in Dublin, Ireland March 18-22
Philadelphia Flower Show preview video
A look at last year’s Chicago Flower and Garden Show
More Philadelphia Flower Show specifics

Changing often: “Of Current Interest” (right sidebar). Timely links to research and information from top universities, plus some fun stuff to help parents age well.

The Best Last-Minute or Any Time Valentine For a Loved-One

We’re doing something different this Valentine’s Day. For decades we’ve sent (now 100-year-old)  Sr. Advisor, R, my husband’s mother, Sweet Sloops from Harbor Sweetssent because we lived far away. She loved the first box and wanted nothing else from then on. Thus, they have been her ongoing Valentine’s Day treat. (Harbor Sweets was a small Marblehead, Mass. family type business when we discovered it.)

This year, however, things needed to change. R is no longer eating chocolate (due to problems falling  asleep) or nuts or carmel (she must be kind to her old teeth–still all her own). I loved this Valentine Valentine heart, cookie boxidea when Monique told me she thought of it for her mother a few years ago; and I introduced it on this blog last year. It will be R’s Valentine this year as it better meets her new needs–A small heart-shaped box containing the following note: 

“I’ve taken all the love out of my heart and placed it in this box.
Any time you need a little, open the box and let some out.”

While Monique’s 89-year-old mother lives in France, I think this works for anyone we love, in any circumstance–whether being sent far away or delivered close to home or to a care center or nursing home. With permission, I share once again and personally use it for the first time.

The round tin will hold a few small, decorated cupcakes. While the tin will soon be empty, I have the feeling that the heart with its message will endure.


Note: Small heart boxes and round tin found at Michaels crafts.

Aging Parents and Super Bowl 2014 Ads

Photo: Anheuser-Busch

What could be better entertainment for aging and elderly parents
than watching some of these ads, if they didn’t see the game?

Sunday, February 2, 2014. Super Bowl XLVIII parties. And those ads–so costly and creative! I was far away from the TVs (but admittedly near the food) in conversation with other women and truly I wasn’t missing the game. What I was missing were most of the ads. (Note: for Super Bowl 2015 ads post click here.)

I was in front of a TV to see Puppy Love, however. At its end, I thought about aging parents and elders in care centers who were football fans, or simply watched past Super Bowl games looking forward to the ads. Then I wondered how many were still watching on TV or had fallen asleep or no longer cared.

If spirits need lifting, Puppy Love and a few other Super Bowl 2014  ads could do the job. Check the links below then take your laptops or iPads to wherever your aging parents or old people you care about are, connect to the wi fi and share.

One network describes this year’s ads in part:

…Even with the economy apparently improving, it appears that our cultural hearts still are beating for the past, and not so much for the present or future. Nostalgia for what was — or what our faulty memories tell us was — was woven into more than a dozen Super Bowl spots, perhaps none with more characters per second than Radio Shack’s ad, which featured 20 real or animated 1980s celebrities, from Hulk Hogan to Mary Lou Retton to Alf.

This also was the Super Bowl where simple was good — sometimes even great. In Anheuser-Busch’s puppy ad, the simple message: Dog loves horse. For Hyundai’s ad: Dad saves son. For Chrysler and Coke’s offerings: America is good.

On Sunday night, for a change, so were some of America’s ads.
*               *                 *

When we bring the world in–especially to those who can’t get out–we bring in  stimulation, fun, life. Especially this year the Super Bowl ads will lift spirits and provide something fun and heartwarming to talk about as we try to help aging parents.

Note: For full screen, click bottom far right icon on ad’s screen

Puppy Love 
America the Beautiful
A Hero’s Welcome
Dad’s Sixth Sense

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.


Aging Parents: Are Thank You’s Obsolete?

Wouldn’t you think THANK YOU like I LOVE YOU
would never go out of style?

What happened to “THANK YOU”
….not to mention “THANK YOU” notes

There’s a ubiquitious complaint among aging parents and grandparents, mostly ages 75+, who have sent gifts to younger family members (and others–think weddings). They don’t always receive a thank you.

  • For an older person who has spent time thinking about THE perfect gift–
  • For grandparents who have contacted their adult children to find out what gift their grandchildren would love the most–
  • For every old person whose way of showing love and caring includes time spent picking out the exact, perfect gift, possibly going to the trouble of wrapping it or having it gift wrapped–
  • Plus paying to send or mail those gifts….

…lack of a thank you can cause worry and/or hurtful thoughts (they aren’t appreciated, recipients are too busy).

Good manners were instilled in our elders. People wrote thank you notes for gifts…period. While good manners are much more relaxed these days, wouldn’t we think “Thank You” like “I Love You” should never go out of style? That said, many elders who have sent gifts (as opposed to personally giving them) are left wondering…

Did the gift arrive? Did they address it wrong? Did the store slip up?  Instead of gift-giving bringing joy, there’s doubt, anxiety and additional effort if they feel the need to track the gift.

If the gift was a check and they and don’t hear back, they not only worry if it arrived–but if it hasn’t been cashed when the next bank statement comes, the concern mounts. This age group remembers the old days, before computers, when bank balances were computed by humans, a time when mistakes were sometimes made. These elders may well check their balances to the last penny.

And there’s additonal frustration for those, especially widows (whether on fixed incomes or not), wanting to live within their means. An unbalanced checkbook is unsettling.

On the other hand, when a gift check is cashed in a timely fashion and no thank you is forthcoming, the reminder is one of thoughtlessness, lack of appreciation, not to mention bad manners.

Most elders can’t hop in a car any longer and drive to the mall to find that perfect gift. They may not order gifts online…may not use technology.

And if they don’t use technology, they can’t receive thank you emails. In the US and other countries where going paperless is gaining popularity in many schools and businesses, perhaps it becomes even easier to forget the value of sending a thank you, unless it’s by email or text.

That said, the cell phone is ubiquitious. And the only thing older people love–after being with children and grandchildren and those they care about–is hearing from them. Indeed, a timely phone call with a from-the-heart THANK YOU coming through the earpiece–be it a tiny little voice, or the mature voice of a very appreciative adult–can do wonders to lift the spirits of older people.

Related ideas:  This mother has taken care of THANK YOU for her young son with this email that includes a short video of her son and the gift.

I hear from a grandmother that her daughter takes a picture of her son with his gift and sends the photo to the gift-giver with a thank you note on the back. She writes THANK YOU and her son, now 5, writes “love” and his name below.

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/Elderly Parents: Visiting Loved Ones in Care Facilities, Especially at Holiday Time, Makes Me Sad….but…

English: A still shot taken during the video p...

but… this is perhaps the best gift
we can give

We shouldn’t project our own feelings onto some one–or some thing.  We know this without having counselor training. Regardless, for me at holiday time, it’s a challenge each time I enter a care facility.

I forget (do I repress it?) the crestfallen feeling, until it overcomes me as I take the first step from my outside-world reality into the institutional setting of cheery, festive, holiday decor. Without warning the disconnect between the decor and reality is totally sobering.

My thoughts: How cheery is it, to be living in an institutional setting surrounded by those with problems, some in the last stages of their lives…….and at the same time know that just outside, an energetic world is alive with children, Santas, beautifully decorated store windows etc.?

Instinctively I put on a smile, tell the staff what a great job of decorating they’ve done (not a lie, the decorations are fine) and proceed to whomever I have come to visit.

Usually as I’m walking to the destination room or assisted living apartment, I pass unknown elders with various degrees of the infirmities that accompany aging. My mind flips to thoughts about how to make the holidays better for them. I ask myself whether it’s my problem–not theirs. Still I challenge my brain to think of ways to bring enjoyment those who have relinquished significant independence and a normal life to be cared for or assisted.

Most of my thinking involves gifts that don’t last. I could bring a small decorated-by-me Christmas tree–artificial or alive, hoping to brighten up a room and spirits; or something to eat, possibly decorated for the holidays. What cheery gifts are appropriate, any time of the year, for people who must wear technology to signal the nursing station if they stray far from their bed without help…or alarm bracelets to signal for immediate help should they fall?

Suddenly thoughts of Bebe, my older master-gardener friend, surface. She spent her last few months in a care facility as her cancer became aggressive. I had been visiting for a while one day, when Bebe explained that a terrific young woman, a masseuse, was scheduled to come shortly. Her a once-a-week massage, arranged by her daughter, was that afternoon. (I took it as a hint to leave shortly.) I believe Bebe said the massage started with her hands, then arms etc. and felt absolutely wonderful, plus the young woman was wonderful.

The young woman arrived before I left. She was the kind of person you immediately like: upbeat, caring, and well-trained. Bebe said I should stay for a few minutes and I’d know what she meant, as the young woman began massaging Bebe’s hands and talked about circulation.

Bebe’s daughter (very caring, smart, a mother of grown children), ran a business and had at least one other time-consuming responsibility that I knew of. While she couldn’t be with her mother constantly, she tried to arrange whatever she could to enrich her mother’s unoccupied moments.

I ran the massage idea past my 88-year old cousin the other day. She’s lives in an assisted living facility in the west and confirmed massage is a terrific gift idea. Some assisted living facilities offer massage as an “extra,” for an additional charge. Perhaps it’s one of those gifts best given by several people, depending on cost.

I’m guessing Bebe’s daughter interviewed to find a masseuse who she thought would be a good fit so her mother could look forward to a very special experience each week. That’s the way Bebe’s daughter is. She left as little to chance as possible (but of course that’s a matter of options and choice).

The gift of scheduled massages is a winner; long-lasting (as long as we wish to pay); and something to look forward to. No doubt it helps circulation and relaxation. And won’t some pampering help contribute to aging as well as possible until the end for elders who can enjoy it?  That said, according to Sr. Advisor S. RN, “Before deciding on massages for aging and elderly parents, check with the doctor. Even gentle massage can cause serious problems, especially if aging and elderly parents are very thin or have thin skin.”

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.

Aging Parents: It’s the Haa, Haa-py-est Time of The Year?

First posted 12/09. A reminder…

Sharing with Santa


It’s The Haa, Haa–py–est Time of The Year

     The words and melody from the radio fill my car as I drive to the post office to mail the holiday cards. We have snow, it looks like a winter wonderland; and kids, amid shrieks of laughter and merriment, are sledding down our shared driveway on anything they can find that’s large enough to sit on. Sun is shining, snow balls are flying, and I’m certain school vacation is adding to this happiest of times.
     And then my counseling background kicks in and I remember that holidays aren’t always the happiest of times for people. So I decide to check in with a few older people and see how they’re doing. As a counselor, I’m trained to ask objective questions–not leading questions that will give me the answer I want (or think I want). That said, let me share my findings.
     The consensus seems to be, from my small sample–but there’s no disagreement–that this is the haa, haa-py-est time of the year for children who have none of the responsibilities of adulthood, for newly marrieds who are looking forward, and for young couples with children who still believe in Santa.
     It’s an especially happy time when older family members are geographically near enough to children and grandchildren so that they can gather together to celebrate and talk about shared past experiences. Meanwhile the excitement of the children in the family provides a background of energy and optimism.
     “The holidays are a time when our mind drifts back to past Christmases that were happy times. It’s a sentimental time,” recalls one 80-year-old widow. “It’s a wonderful time when families can get together, yet a lot of people are completely alone. As people get older, they have experienced losses. Especially for those who’ve lost their mates, other people’s happiness can be a reminder of the losses we’ve incurred. We’re just more vulnerable to that kind of thing when we get older.”
     “Unless there’s a lot of family around and a lot going on, it’s not the happiest time of the year. It’s depressing,” says a 70-year old man.
     There’s agreement that it takes effort for older people to find this a happy time. “It doesn’t just happen,” says one. “It’s what you you make of it when you’re older,” says another. “If you make the effort to be with people it’s good, but it can be exhausting. We may continue to decorate and continue to write the notes on the Christmas cards because we want our home to look festive an we like to get letters back after we write the notes. But we need to trim down and trim back so we aren’t too tire to enjoy.”
     So then I ask the question: How can younger people help? The answers:
 *            *             *
1. Keep in close contact with elders–aunts, uncles. Make sure they’re not forgotten.
2. A phone call even; it doesn’t have to be a visit. An old person related “I had a wonderful phone call from a far-away relative recently.” (Most old people prefer a phone call to an email.)
3. It’s nice to take older people out to something, but take them to something that is rather quiet, that isn’t too taxing an experience.
*                *           *
Why not pick up the phone and talk with at least one older person who lives alone or feels isolated? We can brighten his or her day We can make older people feel special and cared about…because they are. Add we can add interest to their lives. Major studies confirm that connections are one of the most important factors in successful aging. It may not be the Haa, Haa-py-est time of the year for most older people, but we can make it better.

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.