Help Aging Parents: I Just Called to Say I Love You

The flight back to NY will soon take off. Cell phones are active. One last conversation before we’re told to turn off all electronic devices–“anything with an on-off button,” says the flight attendant.  “I love you” seems a popular ending to the conversations. I’m thinking younger people use that expression a lot….sometimes so often that it seems to me its meaning is diluted, and I wonder how much it really means.

In the olden days it meant the world. Think Stevie Wonder and the popularity of the song whose title heads this post….. it continues: “and I mean it from the bottom of my heart.” I’m sitting on the plane for over 4 hours. My thoughts turn to aging parents, grandparents and elderly friends and I wonder how often they hear those–to their generation– tender words, especially when they live alone.

And then I think about care facilities and the “honeys” and the “sweeties” which clearly aren’t delivered in the empowering affectionate terms younger people experience. (If you’ve been reading my blog you know I find those terms diminishing, not endearing, to older people.)

So perhaps we should phone some elderly friends when we have unaccounted-for time and let them know how much we value them. We all know it’s important for older people to stay connected and I think it’s safe to say the elderly don’t receive that many compliments–or–what we used to call– “strokes.” And doesn’t a phone call show we really care? And doesn’t that make people feel good?  I know lonesome older people often talk and talk–and it’s much longer than we’d like; but that just proves how important the phone call is.

(….I’m recalling my father’s mother–an aging, small-of-stature, grandma-looking woman who would always tell us about any compliment she received.  I was a little girl then and it seemed strange that she would tell us about a compliment. In retrospect, it was obviously important to her–may have been one of the best things–or the best thing–that happened for her that week…)

My last thought is about the unconditional love from pets. R has said many times she’d love to have a pet again but at 98 she “doesn’t want to take on more responsibilities.” I get home very late tonight. She’ll be my first call in the morning.

Help Aging Parents With/By Simple Creativity on Valentine’s Day

Think Valentine’s Day. Doesn’t it conjure up thoughts of youth, lovers, girlfriends, boyfriends? Aging parents don’t immediately jump to mind.

Remember the excitement Valentine’s Day generated in grade school (secret valentines placed by classmates in a big decorated box?), then as a teenager and finally as a young adult?  But what about aging and old people?

Perhaps the following, from a grandmother in her late-80’s, sums up most older people’s expectations for Valentine’s Day: “In my younger days I sent Valentines to my 4 children and their children–my grandchildren.  I’d put a few dollars in the grandchidren’s Valentine. But I haven’t done it recently–there are so many grandchildren and great-grandchildren now.”

When I asked what she’d like for Valentine’s day she laughed and said, “Any time someone thinks of you–it’s nice. It would be nice to get a Valentine in the mail, but I’m not expecting any.”

Getting something (other than junk) by snail mail, still brings pleasure–especially to older people. (I experimented and learned a lesson sending e-mail holiday cards to a couple in their mid-60’s, a couple in their mid-80’s–plus two people in their 40’s–in December.  Follow up: Only the people in their 40’s opened the email. The mid-60’s couple thought it could be a scam and the couple in their 80’s didn’t even remember seeing it in MAIL on their computer).

I think it’s safe to say, doing something nice for aging parents and grandparents needn’t be elaborate. It can be as simple as mailing a Valentine–or a recent picture of a grandchild glued to–or enclosed in–a Valentine.  And of course you can make the latter. Everyone learned how to fold a red piece of paper in half and cut the 1/2 heart in grade school. Some double-stick tape adheres a photo in the center! Voila!

Handmade Valentines (which I once made) are cherished and much less costly than store-bought. When I saw the Valentine Tea Cup on the Stewart video, (video playlist), I was again inspired. I’ve printed out the template for the tea cup and will look for some paper (maybe even stiff wrapping paper) to make it. The Valentines on the video look so professional and adult children who do scrap-booking will find them easy to make because they probably have some of the decorative punches etc.

I don’t do scrap-booking or have punches. And I may fold a heavy piece of paper in half for the card and make only the cup and spoon.  But I’ll no doubt rummage around for a small silk flower, piece of fabric or a ribbon to glue on somewhere….maybe even make the two-dimensional effect by rolling two small balls from paper towel pieces and gluing them to the cup so it stands out. Then I can put the tea bag, VIA coffee packet, or gift card behind the cup to make it 3-dimensional.

Since I’m not a baker, I wouldn’t attempt baking and decorating a cake, petits fours or

Inspiration Martha Stewart...Ice Cream Sandwiches

cookies. That said, there are many sites offering recipes and while daunting, the “easy” cakes on this site could be worth a try. Martha Stewart’s cookies would be my speed, love how they look and the recipe looks simple enough-but then I’m not a baker.

Simplicity on Valentine’s Day seems to be treat enough for older people. Something hand-made (a card), edibles (French macaroons, cookies, a cake, indulgent beverages)–or a phone call, a visit or a meal out–convey thought, caring and love. And another opportunity to help parents age well.