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Advice & More May 2016

The Annual Dilemma… What Will You Buy Mom for Mother’s Day?

By Teresa Ambord

Reading a book on an electronic device lets the reader adjust the font, the brightness and the contrast, making reading more comfortable. Many also come with audio for those who can no longer read.

You may not think of technology for your elderly parent. But some lightweight technology has a lot of advantages for older people, if you can get them to use it. Here are some ideas:

  • Books. You can download books onto a tablet or an e-reader like a Kindle. True, many of us like the feel of a book in hand. But reading a book on an electronic device lets the reader adjust the font, the brightness and the contrast, making reading more comfortable. Many also come with audio for those who can no longer read.

  • Music. According to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, music has healing properties for seniors with dementia, Alzheimer’s or cognitive impairment. I’d argue that familiar songs from happier times can heal anyone. The songs of our youth bring back happy, more carefree times and bring a level of comfort. I’ve found many songs online, songs from my own youth that I thought I’d never hear again. But they’re all there.

  • Photos. Pictures of family help mothers recall special times with friends and family and capture more recent events. When my Aunt Dorothy was slipping into dementia her daughters put some recent videos (such as birthday parties and other holidays) and some older videos on a tablet for her, and she was able to enjoy them often. They even did a little retrospective of Aunt Dorothy’s life and gave it to her to watch, set to music. It was actually the kind of tribute that often happens after a person passes away. They wanted to honor her while she was able to see it, and it was really lovely.

  • Games. There are many games suitable and interesting for seniors like Sudoku or Scrabble, or Clevermind – an app created for people with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Its creators say it helps seniors with schedules and offers brain-boosting games and activities, and makes it easier for them to stay connected with their loved ones. You can even link Grandma’s games to your account, or the accounts of your kids and make it a family competition. Games keep the brain active.

  • Calls. Apple products have Facetime, which means Mom and Dad can be face to face with the people they call. When there’s too much distance between you, this helps chase away the loneliness and keeps you connected.

  • Phone/Personal security system. A friend of mine set his elderly father up with a personal emergency response system (PERS). Some of them work anywhere, like GreatCall and MobileHelp, and some have fall-detection. They don’t cost much, but might have a monthly fee or an annual prepaid fee. The great thing about these is that your parents can summon help from anywhere.

But okay, not all seniors want to be connected with tablets and iPads. I make a living on the computer but don’t care for computer games, Skyping, or reading a book online. And my 80-something mom knows how to use a computer but isn’t remotely interested. For her, gift-giving occasions have become increasingly practical. I have friends who feel they have to spend a small fortune, buying something that their moms don’t want and won’t use… something they’ll have to dust. My mom is able to buy what she wants but doesn’t really want anything. So what do I buy her for Mother’s Day? Prepare to yawn.

Mostly I shop for Mom at the post office. She wants books of stamps, so I try to pick out some interesting ones, with pictures of spring flowers, or old-time celebrities like Elvis. Practical, boring, perhaps, but she frets when she’s low on stamps.

Other times I’ll fill her cupboards with things she loves, like her favorite coffee. She could buy her own, but this way she can spend her money elsewhere if she sees something she wants. Last night I visited an elderly relative who wouldn’t come out and say what she wanted for her birthday. So I loaded her freezer with the small individual ice creams that she loves.

I suspect that for most moms, the one gift they want more than anything else is a little bit of your time, like a special lunch with you.

If all else fails, there is always socks. Who doesn’t love new socks?


Mother’s Day Comes to America

Celebrating Mother’s Day goes back to Greek and Roman times. But in America, a West Virginia woman named Anna Jarvis initiated the holiday back in 1908 as a way to honor her own mom. A few years later in 1914 Woodrow Wilson made it a national holiday and that means that this year, Mother’s Day is 102 years old.

Before long, Jarvis herself began to fight the whole idea of Mother’s Day. Why? She was disgusted with the commercialism that soon surrounded the holiday, via the florist and card industries. Jarvis even lobbied the government, unsuccessfully, to remove Mother’s Day from the official calendar.

Trivia question: Do you know the official flower of Mother’s Day?

The answer is the carnation. The practice began in 1908, when groups promoting their causes would hold carnation sales, as a way to raise funds for their causes. Anna Jarvis vehemently opposed the practice.


Teresa Ambord is a former accountant and Enrolled Agent with the IRS. Now she writes full time from her home, mostly for business, and about family when the inspiration strikes.

Meet Teresa