Aging Parents: Energize and Lift Older Peoples’ Spirits With Gifts Appealing to the 5 Senses….continued

Taste, Smell, Touch, Vision and Hearing

 Gifts that make use of the 5 senses–our basic way of perceiving and interacting with our environment–are no doubt welcome. Especially for older people who live in assisted living, rehab, other facilities, these kinds of gifts may help combat the dreary, shorter days of autumn that will soon be upon us. Note: summary gift list is at end.

Older woman buying something tasty

Older woman buying something tasty

We’ve discussed taste. Most older people like edible gifts. They don’t take up much space and are soon gone. And sometimes the most sinful food is the most coveted, isn’t it? But of course dietary considerations should be taken into account–possible exception: when the doctor says it doesn’t make any difference any more.

I remember Mother telling me her best friend didn’t have much sense of smell and thus, couldn’t really taste food. Is that true? What I do know is that Mother enjoyed food and had a keen sense of smell.

Gifts appealing to older people’s sense of smell. Why the Mentholatum?

The result for me–and for her: I often bought gifts that had lovely fragrances. Mother used a bath powder called “Tabu.” After she died, the person who had cleaned for her told me that–since Mother’s death– every time she came to the house she went into Mother’s bathroom, opened that box of powder to sniff it because it reminded her of my mom…and she asked if I’d mind if she had it. (It’s now hers.) Fragrances, of course, are not gender specific. Men use after-shave and cologne, while colognes, perfume, and a wide array of lotions appeal to women. And don’t most fragrances come from the smells of nature–flowers, earth, wood…..?

On the other hand, some people have a very sensitive sense of smell and need to block out offensive odors. A dab of Mentolatum, just outside the nostril, is a quick fix for the short run–assuming there’s no health reason that prohibits Mentholatum for an aging parent.

The sense of touch–to pet a pet

Then there’s the sense of touch. We know how wonderful it is to be
held by someone dear to us (remember older people are probably not lovingly touched–hugged–as often as younger people). Isn’t is pleasurable to feel the soft skin of a baby, a well-worn piece of wood, cashmere? Perhaps it’s another reason people love their pets–the way they snuggle up, give a little lick, the softness of some breeds’ coats.

Sneaking a pet into an aging parents’ room is definitely not my suggestion. Yet I know in the rehab center where Sr. Advisor R was recovering from her broken hip (femur), an elderly man and his dog came several days a week to visit patients. I also know a very dear, older friend dying of cancer was allowed to have her granddaughter and granddaughter’s dog visit the care center. The granddaughter was a doctor, the dog had taken whatever courses a dog needs to pass to enter health facilities (I’m not certain whether or not it was a therapy dog), and the granddaughter made the rounds of patients who appreciated pets after visiting with her grandmother. That was an energizer and did lift spirits.

Since this is getting long, I’ll conclude with vision and hearing in the next post. To be explicit about gifts:
1. TASTE: Enticing food, favorite food
2. SMELL: Gifts with fragrances the older person likes; small wooden (cedar?) boxes; flowers with fragrance; Mentholatum as a defense if needed–or scented oil?
3.  TOUCH: Gifts that are pleasurable to touch: bring the baby, a very soft, light blanket, a smooth wooden box or something made to feel like worn wood; give hugs, hold hands, try to involve a pet.

Note: “Of Current Interest” (right sidebar). Link to timely information and research from top universities about cancer, dementia, Parkinson’s–plus some fun stuff to help parents age well.