Aging Parents: Lifting and Energizing Spirits With Gifts Appealing to the Eye


Enjoying the View in Central Park

Being able to see–and watch. What pleasure! Accompanied by hearing, touch, smell, and taste, vision completes the 5 senses.

Uplifting, energizing things to look at take many forms for different people. The woman above is 74, a visitor to the US I learned, and came early to sit in Central Park before meeting a friend for breakfast. In front of her was a passing parade: the “Race for the Cure,” energetic children, every breed of dog with masters attached, and sun streaming through the trees. She said she loved watching and was happy to have me take her picture.

The first step is to know what constitutes “visual delights” for aging parents, whether they are healthy and independent and able to come and go at will or are among the frail and isolated elderly, many of whom look mostly at TV and “the four walls.” Then think about–

Gift Ideas

Portland, OR Zoo: Old and Young

1. Nature (animal, views of……., birds, flowers, parks) From outings (zoos are great– handicap accessible, often equipped with wheelchairs [see San Diego Zoo post]) to a bird feeder strategically placed outside a window (and refilled by someone other than the older person when necessary)— to taking gifts of plants or seasonal flowers (daffodils in spring)–possibilities are available “right in your own backyard,” as they say.
2. Spectator activities (sports, people-watching, concerts, movies) Possibilities range from gifting activities and providing transportation (grandchildren’s concerts and athletic endeavors, grown-up venues–the latest play coming to town, county fair, and maybe even a drive-in movie) to providing the best technology for those confined to watching TV. The latter, for the legally blind like a friend’s mother, included a comfortable chair situated right next to the easily-operated TV set where she could listen and sort of watch her favorite programs.
3. Family Anything involving grandchildren gets a ***** rating from most older people…so even a photo is precious. That said, the reunion lunch planned by their daughters for two very elderly sisters who lived hours apart and hadn’t seen each other in years (one mobility-impaired, the other with dementia) was an ambitious gift that was 100% worth it. Read reunion post: A Special Summer Outing
4. Food has taken on a life of its own in the gift category. Taking a friend’s old mother (who died at 104) a beautifully decorated cupcake became a tradition that continued for at least a decade. She said it was too pretty to eat, though eat she did. And the young friend that brought Sr. Advisor R a bakery-decorated Halloween cookie (topping a batch of cookies she made) while R was in rehab for her broken hip two years ago, has never been forgotten.

A gift that requires vision to appreciate needn’t be expensive.

My father, who had independence until almost the very end surprised me after Mother died when he said one day “I want to live as long as I can watch the sun rise each day.” He died in a bedroom with a window facing east.

Nat’l Institutes of Health Resource:

A Fun Evening Outing for Aging Parents and You

Drive-In movie at Javelina Stadium parking lot...

Image via Wikipedia

A Drive-in Movie?
You thought they no longer existed, neither did I.
Nor did I know they play 1st-run movies. 

I read yesterday’s Wall Street Journal’s article, Drive-Ins Hang Tough in Digital Age, with curiosity–perhaps craving nostalgia, perhaps hoping to revive long-forgotten thoughts of my youth. Hope fulfilled.

Memories of my first drive-in movie, “From Here to Eternity” were as a young child wearing pajamas, sitting in the back seat of mother’s car with her friend’s child–also in PJ’s–while our mothers watched the movie. We were clueless as to plot, my only memory is of waves washing up on the shore and the fact that it was an adventure–watching a movie from a cozy car, plus we got to stay up late.

As teenagers the drive-in was a popular destination in our small (at the time) desert town but I thought it had gone the way of dinosaurs. Wrong.

Didn’t realize drive-in-theaters still exist until I read yesterday’s WSJ article and clicked Update 9/2012: click link, click “open”–as opposed to closed drive-ins, enter state, click town and drive-in’s website for up-to-date information. Further searching finds ratings/comments for some. (I learned, from the comments, that you bring a portable radio to some drive-ins to get the audio.)

As a far-away-living adult child I was always looking for new, fun, easy and interesting things to do with my parents as they aged–to offset the inevitable medically-related expenditures of time.

If they were still alive I’m certain I would search for a drive-in theater with a  first-run movie I knew they’d enjoy. We could sit comfortably in the car–together–and perhaps relive that “good-old-days” feeling for a few hours.

As my parents aged it seemed, (and I’m guessing it’s true for many seniors) that thoughts of their younger days were a pleasurable diversion from current realities. They enjoyed sharing memories with their steadily declining group of contemporaries and loved it when my high school friends came for a visit.

Taking elderly/aging parents to a drive-in movie, or–as mentioned in past posts–revisiting places they formally lived or loved going to, or clicking to see their old “haunts” and their old neighborhood as they are today should bring pleasure to many.

While new opportunities to bring pleasure are sometimes elusive, don’t you think they contribute to helping parents age well?

A smattering of drive-in sites: