EASTER AND PASSOVER THOUGHTFULNESS THAT HELPS PARENTS AND ELDERS AGE WELL

Passover and Easter: Another chance to lift elders’ spirits and Help Parents Age Well
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Grocery stores, drug stores, and Dollar-type stores have countless inexpensive items for Easter baskets.

IMG_2981A little cash and a little creativity, and ribbon and some cellophane if you like, can turn an ordinary basket into an unexpected surprise that lifts spirits and brings smiles.

   Passover  April 3-11
Easter April 5

The Last Supper was a Passover Seder, thus Easter and Passover are linked calendar-wise and as celebrations of miracles:
The Exodus of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt with the Red Sea’s parting.
The Resurrection of Christ after the Crucifixion.

IMG_2973Our elders fondly recall traditions that brought generations together: Passover with Seders and children looking for the hidden matzo; Easter with church services and children looking for Easter eggs. And always a special meal.

Holidays evoke warmth of family, feelings of togetherness. Yet we know holidays can be depressing for older people, especially those living alone, void of children and invitations to join family celebrations. On the other hand, opportunities for bringing pleasure to old and/or lonely people during Easter and Passover are many:

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Click to enlarge photos

Attending Easter services together, then…
…make the outing special by driving to a place with beautiful surroundings
…going to a restaurant in town where aging parents who don’t get out much can take a short walk (walker? wheelchair?), enjoy seeing normal activity and the window displays.
…having a meal at home with family–togetherness, conversation, participation…

…When Easter or Passover meals are at home and elders want to help, accept the offer. We know how good it feels to contribute.

One of our former Senior Advisors who lived into her 90’s, proudly reported that she made: chopped liver, matzo balls, gefilte fish, and horseradish for the Passover seder. Not easy at 89.  She said she was able “to work it out so I could make everything ahead.” And best of all perhaps for her, “It was a good feeling because everyone wanted to take some home–there wasn’t anything left.”

Last but not least, thoughts about the frail, isolated elderly who can’t get out easily: A visit is a gift in an of itself. Additional options:

IMG_2977…Bring… a little lunch or snack (“nothing big,” I’m told) to share while you talk (consider dietary restrictions if known)
…a few holiday decorated cookies or cupcakes
..an easy-care living plant–possibilities: philodendron [sweetheart plant], fern [nephrolepis], spathiphyllum [peace lilly–wallisi variety] or kalanchoe.
…a flowering plant for a sunny indoor spot or patio
…a bouquet of flowers

….allergies a problem? What about a basket filled with bunnies or matzos, and candies and a leafy plant.

Easter and Passover celebrate miracles. While we can’t make miracles, showing thoughtfulness to our elders is precious. (Actually it can be a miracle if normally unthoughtful family members decide to “buy in.”) And adding interest to life helps parents and the elders we care about age well.

IMG_2985.Check out “Newsworthy” (right sidebar). Links to timely tips, information and research from top universities and respected professionals–to help parents age well.

Terrariums: Easy Care Live Plants in Little Landscapes–Easily Made, Great Gifts..

Terrarium–
1.
 “
a glass container, chiefly or wholly enclosed, for growing and displaying plants”

Once planted, if enclosed, there’s next-to-no upkeep.
Note: Click all terrarium pics to enlarge
I was given the airtight, octagon terrarium (above) decades ago after an illness. I loved it. It needed very little care. Its plastic octagonal bottom contained small plants and its octagonal top lifts off when they need water or cutting back. Ultimately one plant got too tall. I took it out and easily replaced it with a tiny fern purchased at a landscape nursery. It transplanted easily and stayed small, aided by the humid environment. What a perfect gift for young and old. I was hooked.
Fittonia and ficus pumila quercifolia. Click or double-click for up close with frog and bottles

Click or double-click for up-close view of fittonia, ficus pumila quercifolia, frog, and bottles.

30+ years later only one (tall) plant remains. It has grown well with fittonia (striped leaf) and ficus pumila quercifolia (miniature oak leaf fig) for many years. I just cut back some fittonia before taking this picture. Terrarium needs little care beyond receiving small amounts of water a few time a year and some cutting back with a small scissors. Fittonia  leaves are all less than an inch; ficus leaves even smaller.

Since then I’ve made countless terrariums in varied containers–including this little hinged-roof, leaded greenhouse (made by a retired NJ policeman); purchased at a local nursery. Not for beginners; it’s not airtight.
Greenhouse terrarium with hinged roof (click to enlarge)

Click to enlarge. Flowering plants–sinningias pusilla and white sprite. Clay pots suck moisture– need added water and watching so they don’t dry out.

Creating an environment with small plants–for relaxation, for friends, and for older people in care centers at holiday time is fun–becomes addictive. The greenhouse terrarium won many “BEST” awards at spring flower shows (with more flowering plants in little pots than shown above). Interestingly maintaining little plants in a terrarium requires less work than a non-terrarium single plant–and delights onlookers (and judges).
PURCHASING PLANTS for Enclosed Terrariums
Smallish, slow-growing plants that like high humidity are a must–when the goal is easy/minimum care for aging parents and older people. Once planted and watered, they have no other watering needs because they create their own environment if their lid/top/plastic wrap is on tight. Only when plants are grown in something big like a covered fish tank, can regular-size plants be used.
Once planted, a terrarium is good to go–no upkeep– except occasional water (plants will look droopy) and pruning. Covered terrariums can’t tolerate direct sunlight. Heat hitting the glass (or plastic) will immediately bake (and kill) the plants. ‘Nuf said.
You can purchase terrariums or….
                                                                       MAKE YOUR OWN
Any dish or glass-enclosed vessel is fair game as a planter. I found a great glass piece at TJ Maxx for $5 because its top was missing. I turned it into a terrarium by wrapping plastic wrap over the top opening to keep it airtight.

Supplies are simple. The soil is simple potting soil (no added fertilizer, the idea is to keep things small). If deciding to fertilize, 1/4-1/8 strength of recommended amount, once in spring, will do it. I often forget; the plants don’t seem to notice and the flowering ones still bloom.

While I don’t use moss, many people do as pictured in the carefully-selected links below and this Philadelphia Flower Show entry above left. I often add little rocks, wood, and glass or pottery objects. I also line the container’s bottom with charcoal (see links below ). Someone said “it keeps the soil sweet.” I don’t know precisely what that means but it works I guess. Container, charcoal, soil, plants, water, light (but no direct sun) and lid/top does it. How simple is that!

Before the holidays, as a gift, why not make a terrarium? Older people, especially, are enchanted by these little creations. Nature is restorative. Watching these manageable little gardens grow and bloom adds interest to life…and that helps parents age well.

Related:
Fittonia (red stripe) link: http://www.logees.com/browse-by-botanical-name/fittonia/nerve-plant-super-red-fittonia-verschaffeltii.htmlLogees has a fine reputation and excellent (often hard-to-find) plants. They advise if plants do well in terrariums. (I have the white stripe–not red– fittonia.)
http://www.stormthecastle.com/terrarium/terrarium-plants.htmlvery complete, good instructions
http://www.thenester.com/2012/04/using-plants-in-your-home-part-4-terrariums.html–an especially excellent site for everything.
https://www.sprouthome.com/terrariums/ check pictures for ideas. You can make them for much less.
Commercial presentation: terrarium designs, purchasing. Beter planting instructions above.  http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/diy-or-buy-terrarium-167979
http://www.stormthecastle.com/terrarium/where-to-buy-micro-mini-sinningia.htm  Scroll way down for purchasing info and photos of sinningias (White Sprite and Pusilla seen in greenhouse terrarium above). 

Easy-Care Plants for Aging Parents

 “Once we become interested in the progress of the plants in our care,
their development becomes a part of the rhythm of our own lives
and we are refreshed by it.”
Thalassa Cruso (1909-1997),
Public TV’s “Julia Child of the Horticulture” 1966-69.

October. Days shorten. Get colder. Leaves fall. We spend more time indoors, less time with nature.

A perfect, thoughtful gift for older people: an easy-to-care-for plant. Even more perfect if doing so can refresh and lift the spirits of those we care about–those living alone, in assisted living or care facilities, even those with no “green thumb.”

Here’s a short list of plants that take neglect and still perform. Indeed they ask nothing more than regular watering and filtered sun or low light.

3 Flowering Plants

Caring for Your St. Patrick’s Day Shamrock Plant - (This popular house plant (oxalis) is very easy to grow and maintain) http://gomestic.com/gardening/caring-for-your-st-patricks-day-shamrock-plant/

1. Oxalis is one of the easiest, most forgiving, fun-to-watch plants. Green (regnellii)  or purple (triangularis) leaves. Leaves open at daylight (watch 33 second video link that shows leaves opening at 23 seconds) and close each night as darkness sets in. Wants light in order to produce flowers, but not full sun. Likes damp (not soggy) soil. When too dry, plant tells you; it looks like it’s collapsing. But it comes right back after watering. Blooms for long periods indoors, with a rest period after blooming.

Spathiphyllum

Spathiphyllum–click to enlarge

 

2. Spathiphyllum is also easy and forgiving. Many varieties, different size plants. Buy the small size. They grow just as well and are more manageable. If plants are getting dry, the leaves begin to sag–that’s the signal to water. If they get too dry the tips turn brown; but the plant survives, and the tips can be trimmed if desired. I’ve found these plants impossible to kill. Low light is fine. they don’t like bright light. Blooms year round.

Video short with instructions, basically tells you how easy this plant is to care for. I didn’t know it’s also an air purifier but, according to the video, it is.

Bromeliad

Bromeliad–click to enlarge

3.  Bromelliad blooms are vibrant, last months, and clearly add color to any room. They do need good light, usually bright indirect light, but require little care, definitely don’t want to be overwatered.

Bromelliads at left were at Home Depot (NYC) not a place to buy fussy, difficult-to-grow plants. Should an older person become attached to this plant, the major problem is that, after blooming for several months, the plant dies. That said, it has already produced “pups” around it, that will bloom about 6 months later–I think. So the plant dies, but leaves its offspring, which elders can enjoy watching grow and finally bloom. 7 Easy-to-grow Bromelliads


“Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful:
they are sunshine, food and medicine to the soul.”
Luther Burbank
American botanist, horticulturalist, pioneer in agricultural science
to be continued next post.

Related: Aging Parents: Easy-care, live-plant gifts: terrariums–flowering-or-not

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.