Gifting Easily-decorated Halloween Pumpkins with Flowers and Whimsey Lifts Spirits of Aging Parents and Care Center Elders

IMG_46312015 Pumpkins for Elders

Pumpkins with interesting stems and the potential for whimsey make uplifting October gifts.

And once again they’ve been given to older people this past week, the oldest being 97-year-old J.

He and his (now deceased) wife were inspiration for the first pumpkin I decorated in 2010.  They were having health issues and when I saw the lopsided pumpkin (photo below), the outcast, relegated to the unpopular side of the bin–I wondered who would buy it. Then I realized it could bring a smile if filled with chrysanthemums…and immediately I thought of J and his wife. .

It was a medium-size pumpkin. I quickly drove it home and put it on the kitchen counter, thinking I’d cut off the top, put a plastic container inside and fill it with water and flowers. However visualizing the lopsidedness and not wanting to discard the stem, sparked another idea: Why not poke holes in it, carefully push chrysanthemum stems into the holes, and see how it looks.

2010 Pumpkin

2010 Pumpkin

I purchased Trader Joe’s chrysanthemum bouquet ($3.99), took ivy from the yard, and bought little scarecrows at Michael’s ($1.50 I think). The 2010 pumpkin lasted over 2 weeks I was told.

Since we’ve now moved to NYC and use public transportation, I bought small pumpkins this year, the little pie pumpkins, because they’re easier to transport.

I focused on size and long stems, not realizing, until I read in Mayo Clinic’s Nutrition-wise Blog:”Pumpkin Trivia–10 facts about this fall favorite, that these little pumpkins are sweeter but have less water inside than the larger ones bred for carving. I immediately understood why the larger pumpkins lasted two weeks (stems must suck up the liquid inside).

Because there”s less liquid in the little pumpkins, I squirted some water in the holes before poking in stems, hoping to make up for the lost moisture. And since there are alway left-over flowers, I left extras at J’s this year. All should last a week without having to add extra flowers. (I’ll post an update on that in a few weeks.) Next year I’ll buy carving variety pumpkins, looking for the smallest.

Four pumpkins were decorated. The one at the top is J’s. The three below went to women ages 70-90.  (Click photos–except 2010 photo–to enlarge)

IMG_4720When we can put smiles on elders’ faces, we’re adding a bit to help them age well, aren’t we?

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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.
 

Related: Click “Halloween Posts” tab under header above for past posts and photos

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