Easter, Passover Miracles and Opportunities to Help Parents Age Well (updated 2012)

Holiday Thoughtfulness and Aging Parents
Peter Cotton Tail Garden Basket

A small bunny peaks out from under a flowered hat at bottom left of this spring basket, made by my friend. Wouldn’t it bring joy to an aging parent or to a senior in a care facility?

2012   Passover: April 6-14      Easter: April 8

We celebrate miracles: The Exodus of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt with the Red Sea’s parting. The Resurrection of Christ after the Crucifixion. Older generations fondly recall traditions that brought family members together: Passover with Seders and children looking for the hidden matzo; Easter with church services, children’s Easter egg hunts, and a special Easter meal. The timing of Passover and Easter are inextricably linked. The Last Supper was a Passover Sedar.

Holidays evoke warmth of family, feelings of togetherness. Yet we know holidays can be depressing for older people living alone, without children to visit or invitations to partake in family celebrations. On the other hand, opportunities for bringing pleasure to old and/or lonely people during Easter and Passover are many:

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

…When the Easter meal is at home and elders want to help, accept the offer. We know how good it feels to contribute.

Ditto for Passover. One of our Senior Advisors says proudly that she made: chopped liver, matzo balls, gefilte fish, and horseradish for the Seder. Not easy at 89.  She says 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 and there wasn’t anything left.”

Passover Sedars follow a prescribed ritual– usually at home with family and often invited guests.  Yet there were no children to look for the traditional hidden matzo at a Sedar on the West Coast last year. What to do? Creative thinking perpetuated the tradition.

The oldest guests were sent on the hunt. And an excited 86-year-old found the matzo. While not traditional, life today with children and grandchildren living near is not the same as in times past. Adapting is the name of the game for holidays (and so much else).

And last but not least, what about the frail, isolated elderly who can’t get out easily? A visit is welcome and bringing little gifts, while unnecessary, is always a pick-me-up.  Suggestions:

…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 like the one above?

Easter and Passover celebrate miracles. While we can’t make miracles, giving older people something to look forward to is a gift–a gift that contributes to helping parents and elders age well–especially at holiday time.

Aging Parents and Loneliness

What makes old people lonely? Were they lonely when they were younger, and if they are our parents were we never aware?

Were they shy?  Were they slow to initiate–did they even try? Did they have friends? Were they loners? Were their personalities such that people didn’t like being with them? Remember–people change, not much.

Many old people are lonely. We just know that, even if we don’t know them.  But if they’re in our family, it’s troubling isn’t it?

For many of us there’s an internal pressure to “make it better” for them. With the demands of life today, however, this isn’t necessarily easy. So do we feel guilty, do we do the best we can and connect whenever we think about it and have some free time, or do we repress this reality and go about our life?

A short article from this summer’s issue of UCLA Medicine (the University of Calif. at Los Angeles Medicine Magazine) caught my attention. While we know loneliness is emotionally awful, their researchers report that people who continually feel lonely may also be at higher risk for cardiovascular disease, cancer, and neurodegeneration. Any of those undesirable conditions are burdensome for aging parents and add additional complications to their children’s lives.

If our aging parents fall into the loneliness category, what can we do? Probably not much of substance unless we:

Post Reminders
     — on our computer calendar, paper calendar, engagement calendar, the refrigerator–making certain they have human contact on a daily basis.  OK. Easier said than done, I know, but it can become 5-10 minutes of a daily routine if we phone or fax.

A fax takes only the time spent to write it, which I think is the beauty of a fax.  A lonesome aging parent has something newsy come into his/her life to read and reread, while a phone call lasts for an unspecified amount of time with good or bad news, but leaves only memories after it ends.

On the other hand, D in her 80’s, who will soon be added as a Senior Advisor to this blog, relates: “One morning recently I made two phone calls to friends and received one from a third, and as I thought about the three calls, I felt buoyed up for the day.  

To assuage the feeling of loneliness, nothing can approach the power of a phone call and the warmth of the human voice, which is multiplied geometrically by a second call -no matter how brief – from the same person or another one.”

A visit is best, a phone call is evidently 2nd best, then comes the fax. Also Paw Paw email (click “Sites and Blogs I Like” tab above) qualifies for non-computer users. Its simple purpose is to bring email into a person’s life.

There’s an old saying–I think it an AT&T ad:  “Reach Out and Touch Someone.”  Daily personal contacts can help dispel loneliness as we aim to help parents age well.

Related: Click link for some specific lonesome-parent strategies

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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.

Aging Parents: Ideas/Thoughts for Passover and Easter (updated 2011)

Holiday Thoughtfulness and Aging Parents
Peter Cotton Tail Garden Basket

A small bunny peaks out from under a flowered hat at bottom left of this spring basket, made by my friend. Wouldn’t it bring joy to an aging parent or to a senior in a care facility?

2011   Passover: April 18-26      Easter: April 24

We celebrate miracles: The Exodus of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt with the Red Sea’s parting. The Resurrection of Christ after the Crucifixion. Older generations fondly recall traditions that brought family members together: Passover with Seders and children looking for the hidden matzo; Easter with church services, children’s Easter egg hunts, and a special Easter meal. The timing of Passover and Easter are inextricably linked. The Last Supper was a Passover Sedar.

Holidays evoke warmth of family, feelings of togetherness. Yet we know holidays can be depressing for older people living alone, without children to visit or invitations to partake in family celebrations. On the other hand, opportunities for bringing pleasure to old and/or lonely people during Easter and Passover are many:

Attending Easter services together, then…

…dining at a place with beautiful surroundings that make the outing special
…going to a restaurant in town where aging parents who don’t get out much can take a short walk (walker? wheelchair?), window shop, enjoy seeing normal activity
…having a meal at home with family–togetherness, conversation, participation…

When the Easter meal is at home and elders want to help, accept the offer. We know how good it feels to contribute.

Ditto for Passover. One of our Senior Advisors says proudly that she made: chopped liver, matzo balls, gefilte fish, and horseradish for the Seder. Not easy at 89.  She says 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 and there wasn’t anything left.”

Passover Sedars follow a prescribed ritual– usually at home with family and often invited guests.  Yet there were no children to look for the traditional hidden matzo at a Sedar on the West Coast last year. What to do? Creative thinking perpetuated the tradition.

The oldest guests were sent on the hunt. And an excited 86-year-old found the matzo. While not traditional, life today with children and grandchildren living near is not the same as in times past. Adapting is the name of the game for holidays (and so much else).

And last but not least, what about the frail, isolated elderly who can’t get out easily? A visit is welcome and bringing little gifts, while unnecessary, is always a pick-me-up.

 Suggestions:

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
…flowers
…allergies a problem, what about a basket like the one above?

Easter and Passover celebrate miracles. While we can’t make miracles, planning ahead and giving older people something to look forward to is an additional gift–a gift that contributes to helping parents and elders age well, especially during holidays.