Lifting Aging Parents’ Spirits in the Fall–6 Ideas


Fall foliage and Walkers in Central Park 2015

Combatting Senior Sadness in Fall
Do we notice mood changes in elders when less daylight makes days feel shorter?

September 22nd.  The beginning of Fall– the Fall Equinox. Hours of daylight lessen. Days feel shorter. Darker days darken some people’s mood. Clearly the elderly aren’t immune and may be even more at risk if they live alone or are inclined to “see the glass half empty.”

The idea of cozy, apple cider, pumpkin pie and beautiful fall foliage may be off their radar–replaced by gloom, doom, and loneliness as they contemplate the literally-darker days ahead.

Adding some spirit-lifting ideas for this group has become tradition for Help! Aging Parents. But we’re a bit earlier this year and why is that?  While the unusually warm weather in many parts of the US is delaying signs of fall in terms of leaveimg_5311s on trees and other vegetation dying down, it seems holiday decorations appear earlier and earlier every year and 2016 is no exception. Indeed, pumpkins are in evidence in NYC now–seen this week outside of Lowe’s, some restaurants, and in some window displays

This actually gives us more time to provide activities that add interest to the lives of those elders we care about.

  1. For the homebound, try this simple entertainment: On a level surface, Vernal Equinoxbalance an egg on its end during the vernal or autumnal equinox.  We’re told this is tricky, but can be done any day of the year–especially if eggs have little bumps on the ends. (click 1-minute video). I forgot to do it the other day, but here’s proof–a picture taken years ago during the vernal equinox in March with a non-bumpy egg. Using a non-bumpy egg, takes practice; but I could teach neighborhood children to do it—so give it a try next March, or look for bumpy eggs and give it a try now. Guaranteed to spark conversation about something other than aches and pains.


2.  A drive to view the fall foliage speaks for itself. Although outings with older people may require bringing along a lot of extra stuff, the chance to get out and see different scenery, and spend time chatting in the car is priceless, memorable, and gives elders something to talk about and think about well past the event itself. Including a meal along the way adds to the enjoyment. Can anything equal Autumn in Vermont?

3. Since we know mobility–and maintaining balance–require more effort as people get older, taking a walk addresses several issues in the “If-You-Don’t-Use-It, You-Lose-It category.” Leg muscles strengthen with walks (whether using a cane or not);  socialization likely occurs; and clearly children, dogs, cyclists and scenery are in great supply (note Central Park photo at top). This expands horizons, especially for those who, through choice or preference, remain housebound.  apple-picking-long-island

4.  Apple-picking is synonymous with fall and includes exercise–if only a short walk. Many orchards open their property to apple-pickers. Could a drive to an orchard with elderly parents and their grandchildren provide a fun outing?

5.  Ditto for the pumpkin patch or farm stand. Plan a trip with children and elders to visit a pumpkin patch or select this year’s pumpkin from those at the farm’s stand.
Favorite Farm Stand 2014


6.  And what’s more fun than generations cooking together. There’s something about working together in the warmth of a kitchen that provides special moments. Making apple cider isn’t difficult; encourages conversation; and the resulting aroma that fills the air is an added bonus- (2 recipes below)

7. More togetherness in the kitchen includes making applesauce together or what about this recipe for applesauce pancakes? …Is it too early to make a pumpkin pie?

There’s an added 3-fold benefit when these ideas are planned ahead of time.  As Sr. Advisor said:  they’re something to look forward to; they’re something to do; and they’re something to look back on and think about. That’s almost a home-run isn’t it! And if the cooking is added, could it be called a bases-loaded home run ?

Related: easily-made cider using bottled apple juice
 made-from-scratch apple cider

Surprising Depression Symptoms from Prevention Magazine

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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?


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: Practice What You Preach

1. “Keep in close contact with elders–aunts, uncles. Make sure they’re not forgotten.”
2. “A phone call is wonderful; it doesn’t have to be a visit.”
*         *        *

These suggestions to lift elders’ spirits during the holidays, came from a small survey I took several years ago. Twice since I posted them last Saturday, their ability to raise people’s spirits and make them feel good has been proven–once for Sr. Advisor, R; once for the seniors who work on Help! Aging Parents.

The fact that they came as a complete surprise, makes them even more special. The fact that Holiday cards provided the “contact” in one case, allows me to make the leap of faith that #3 should be “An unexpected Holiday card”—and possibly  #4: an unexpected “anything good” should be added.

Shortly after publishing last Saturday’s post, I spoke with Sr. Advisor R. Readers know she’s 101 and still, as she likes to say, “has a good head.” She has also suffered major vision issues in the last year–loss of vision in one eye and compromised vision and a droopy eyelid in the other.

While she is a creative problem solver (that’s the reason she’s a Sr. Advisor) and uses 3 magnifying glasses of different magnifications (which she ordered from catalogs) because reading is part of her life, she’s not a “happy camper” these days. When she phones we’ve learned listening, being supportive–and not offering advice unless asked–is important if we want a nice conversation.

You can imagine my surprise, hearing her spirited conversation. R immediately began by telling me she received two completely unexpected Christmas cards that day, from people she cared about and didn’t realize still cared about her.

One was a Christmas letter (took a long time to read, using the magnifying glasses she said) from a once-very-good-friend’s son. (The good friend died at least 5 years ago). His letter was full of interesting news that gave R new things to think about, but the fact that he was thinking about her was what she focused on.

The second was a Christmas card, with message, from the woman who cleaned my home 4 hours a week during my working years. Widowed at 51, R came to NY to visit twice a year over many decades–Thanksgiving and Mother’s Day. In smidgens of time, they logged a lot of time together. Being remembered and the words in the note on the card really touched R. She literally sounded buoyant..

Then yesterday we got the news that Help! Aging Parents is cited as one of 2014’s “Top 10 Websites for Aging” by the people at Good Learning this clearly boosted the spirits of my Sr. Advisors and myself–in the midst of the last-minute stress produced by the holidays the unexpected does this. (We’re in good company with the American Society on  Aging, Aging and seven others sites, check them out.)

Recapping events for this post is making me feel good in more ways than one. Why? Because when I finished last Saturday’s post, I went back to my Christmas-card-addressing, looking carefully at the list that has been added to and crossed out over the years. I took a second look and found two husbands from my husband’s working years had died, but I knew their widows. Hearing from us would be a surprise–additional cards were addressed, with a short note added. Then I remembered being told my high school PE teacher (who I loved) was in her 90’s and still functioning; so I contacted the friend who told me–another card with a short note was addressed.

Interestingly, practicing what I preached (well, suggested) in last Saturday’s post, made me feel good. So I know it’s a win-win.

Wishing you a MERRY CHRISTMAS and a NEW YEAR that’s a win-win.