Great Halloween Gift Ideas Roundup for Aging, Elderly, and Hosptialized Adults–Part 1: Pumpkins–Decorated, not Carved

Favorite Farm Stand 2014

Favorite Farm Stand 2014

Decorating pumpkin patch pumpkins in an unorthodox way–
Unique and fun gift for aging parents and elders.
Click photos to Enlarge

When I lived near this farm stand I’d take pumpkins home and decorate–not carve–them on the kitchen counter….gifts for elderly friends at Halloween. However when we moved to the City, transporting them became a logistical challenge because cars in the City are basically an expensive nuisance. Thus, our car is in a garage in the suburbs. Last week I took the commuter train to the suburbs, got our car, then purchased the pumpkin, flowers etc. without knowing where I would assemble everything.

Decorating in the car would be a last resort, as there’s no electrical outlet for the glue gun. Decision: this year’s pumpkin–only one–would not require a glue gun, only the skewers to poke the holes. I forgot it last year and ended up using a fondue fork. It works too.

Halloween 2013 Scarecrow Pumplin

2012 Halloween Pumpkin, Skewers, Glue Gun, Scarecrow.    Click to enlarge

2013 Scarecrows

2013 Finished Hallwoween Pumpkins              (with fairly short stems)

This 2014 non-messy project began at the farm stand, where I selected an easily-portable pumpkin with a curved stem that had strings dangling from it. At Trader Joe’s I bought the $3.99 bouquet special, then went in search of some ornaments.

I’ve used small scarecrows in the past, but couldn’t find any this year.  The best I could do was purchase a head band with black feathers and pumpkins quivering on a spring ($2.99). That was a bit of a splurge for me, but what the heck! A dollar store was too far away.

I’ve learned to phone to double-check that it’s still convenient for me to bring a pumpkin to an elderly person–things can easily change as we know. The 96-yearr-old man’s caregiver said to come on over and decorate the pumpkin in the kitchen, which I (we) did.

The finished 2014 whimsey pumpkin above: We inserted an orangish chrysanthemum to look like a tooth was missing in the smile and added the purple mums for cheeks or ears.

Alternative to a fresh pumpkin: purchase ceramic or paper mache pumpkins with open tops or cut the paper mache top off, place container of water (plastic deli kind works well) inside, fill with fall flowers. Chrysanthemums in water last as long as the ones that have their longish stems inserted through the skewered hole into a fresh pumpkin’s liquidy center. The pumpkin above should last about 2 weeks. (Unused flowers are left in a glass of water and can replace any flowers that wilt.)

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Days later: I found–and bought– another pumpkin at Trader Joe’s and found scarecrows at Michael’s. Scarecrows are $1.25 on sale. Tomorrow I will phone my 101-year-old m-i-l and tell her I’d like to bring over a small decorated Halloween pumpkin, if she would like. Having control, at 101, has become even more important to her. She has become very  particular about not having anything unnecessary around–she will recycle it to a friend or throw it away. That’s why I’ll ask first.

Related: 2013: Decorating a Gift Pumpkin: Instructions and finished product
               2010: A Halloween Surprise 

The first Decorated Pumpkins 2010

2010 My first Decorated Pumpkins                    Click to enlarge

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Aging Parents: Prelude to Halloween continued…

Prelude to Halloweeen

Prelude to Halloween

People’s spirits can rise and fall based on something as simple as “weather.” We can understand this when thinking about the emotional fragility of the “frail and isolated elderly.” Yet down-days are also common for ordinary older people, whose lives have shrunk from a fast-forward, exhilarating younger pace to a slowdown-and boredom–in old age.

October’s weather can cause an avalanche of down days (although thankfully not this year in NY). Several dreary Octobers ago a prominent octogenarian couple I knew needed a cheery something. And I needed to visit them–but not empty-handed. Earlier that day I had gone food shopping. In the grocery store I saw the screwiest-looking pumpkin stem atop a lopsided-looking pumpkin. It made me laugh as I wondered who could ever carve a face on it. The whimsy got the better of me. I bought it; clueless about what to do with it.

You know my thinking next: If it makes me smile, why not take it to the old couple? How stupid/risky/outrageous is that? Here’s the first pumpkin I ever decorated as displayed on that October blog.   

Since then my creative endeavors often have some unanticipated small disaster. As you can see, the “screwy” part of the stem broke off during the decoration process. Only the lopsidedness remains. (And you’re the only ones who know how the stem should have looked.)

Now it’s October again, so yesterday I left NYC to do my decorated pumpkin for the 95 year-old widower of that original elderly couple–only this time in his kitchen. I brought 2 pumpkins (in case of disaster) and flowers, took glue gun and acorns, scissors and scarecrows. He was waiting for me in the study when I arrived, but seemed to have little energy for going into the kitchen to watch the decorating.

His caregiver got into the act quickly since I’d forgotten the skewers needed to poke deep holes in the pumpkin so flower stems could benefit from the liquid around the seeds inside (and last longer). He found an old fondue fork and I found that a good stab by him at the place I designated worked as well as the turkey skewer–perhaps better for the wide chrysanthemum stems.

We worked as a team. After 5 minutes the larger pumpkin (at top), was finished. He asked if we could do the small one. By this time he was helping with the decoration and suggested the acorn. Giving his approval to one of the places I suggested, we glued it. Finished product–

My elderly friend loved them and remembered they would last, no doubt until Halloween. His caregiver kept telling me how much he loved helping and spent a while taking pictures with his cell phone.
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Bottom line: It’s always rewarding to do something that makes an older person happy. This was a win, win, win– for my elderly friend, his caregiver, and me.
                              Things that lift the spirit help parents age well
 
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.
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Related: “Halloween Posts”– Clck tab above under heading