Halloween decorations are becoming as widespread as the colorful trappings associated with the December holiday season. They’re very different than the orange, carved, candle-lit pumpkins–and perhaps a black cat or witch– sitting on the front porches of our childhood.
Various shaped and even white-creamy-colored–pumpkins, along with over-sized air-filled pumpkins, plus ghosts and witches, are common sights. More and more suburban and urban homes and townhouses, farm stands and commercial establishments now dress up for Halloween.
Isn’t this a perfect time to take older people out for a great change of scenery? How many old and/or somewhat infirmed people spend most of their time indoors–at home or in assisted living or more structured care facilities… and rarely get out? Still others don’t drive on unfamiliar roads or at night, when the lighted Halloween displays create a different mood. For older people who are able to get into a car, going for a ride provides countless opportunities to lift their spirits and add stimulation to their lives.
Yesterday was a dreary day–mostly overcast–yet we had smiles on our faces as we scouted neighborhoods for Halloween displays. The local farm stand harkened back to the past. A drive to the country is clearly a change of pace for city dwellers. Yet any drive that takes older people out of the same-ole, same-ole and treats them to new sights, is a win-win: new adventures, new things to think about and, of course, companionship.
We may have limited free time (or the elderly may have limited staying power), yet making time for even a short drive into town can yield surprises like the store windows in this village, artfully covered with entries in the village-sponsored Halloween painting contest for grade school youngsters. If time constraints dictate a short drive, explore the streets of a nearby neighborhood. Chances are there are visual treats everywhere.
A dry run to do the initial scouting has worked best for me. I then know the preferred route for a quickie drive when time and energy are in short supply. And taking someone along for the dry run turns out to be an unexpected treat. The drive turns into a sort of treasure hunt as we look for–and prioritize–the best displays.
Even when the relationship with our parents is “ify,” and thoughts of being confined in a car together for an extended period of time makes us hesitate, the focus on Halloween displays just naturally dominates the atmosphere and the conversation, making for a good time together.
Indeed, these drives are no doubt worth the time and effort. Major studies confirm that connections with others and stimulation are important factors in aging well. Taking older people out for a drive–or pushing their wheelchair past townhouses in New York City– no doubt contributes to their well-being.
Aging plays so many unexpected tricks on older people. Isn’t is great when we can easily give them a treat!