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Starting the Dialogue with your Aging Parents: Boredom, Food & Gardening

June 17, 2013

It seems to be a subject that has priority in my thoughts these days–FOOD. Not that I am craving any particular food or having issues with food, but as a nurse I see so many people who are struggling with issues surrounding food. Our nation has become over run with grocery stores full of processed, pre-packaged, sugar-laden foods (more space devoted to unhealthy foods than to fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy dairy natural grains and undoctored protein) which we grab because the fancy packaging grabs our attention or we’re in a hurry and want a quick fix.

We also have a high population of diabetics who are confused about how they’re supposed to eat since time with their doctor is limited (sometimes to just 15 or 20 minutes) and there isn’t enough time to absorb all the information, ask questions, and integrate all the dietary and medication advice to be learned.

Food becomes an issue that is often ignored despite the fact that proper nutrition can delay the onset, and in some case prevent development, of Type II Diabetes. For those already diagnosed and on medication proper carbohydrate counting and decreased fat consumption can mean the ability to reduce, or eliminate, the need for medication.

Proper diet can also reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and high cholesterol or other lipid disorders.

Can you count how many TV commercials there are for various types of medications junk food? Now think about how many commercials promote consumption of fresh fruits, healthy foods like yogurt or cheese, eggs, whole grain cereals and lean meats.

Pick up a magazine. Unless it’s a magazine devoted to gardening or specific eating styles you’ll find it full of  ads for snack foods, desserts, medications and coupons for junk food.

Is it any wonder we’re a nation with expanding waist lines?

The title of today’s post also includes boredom. What does that have to do with food?

When I’m bored I eat. I grab whatever is at hand and I eat. I don’t tend to make big meals, but I’ll grab a handful of something to keep me occupied. Getting up and getting the snack or the drink makes me feel productive. Do you do this? Have you noticed if your aging parents do this?

Are you or your aging parents/elderly clients bored? If so, you all are more likely to eat more than you need in calories. Along with that you’re more likely to sit around watching TV or being inactive–it’s part of what leads to the boredom.

So what do we do about the boredom?

  • Get up and get active.
  • Get a dog and take multiple walks.
  • Join a neighborhood group and socialize.
  • Take a class. There are extension programs in even the smallest towns, find one and sign up for a class. It doesn’t have to be academic. Learn origami or a musical instrument, how to rumba, take a beginner yoga class.
  • Volunteer at the local nursing home, hospital, day care center, or school. Every service organization needs volunteers whether they hold non-profit or for-profit status.
  • Take up gardening.

This brings me to the final point in today’s title: Gardening

One way to overcome the boredom and to eat a healthier diet is to garden. Ok, your aging parents may not be able to get out there and till the soil, weed a large garden, or engage physically in heavy garden chores.

No worries. There are multiple options:

  • Outdoor container gardening in large pots, water troughs, window boxes hanging baskets or any other container type you can find.
  • A small raised bed garden at waist height so there’s no bending
  • A cooperative effort with friends or neighbors so the workload is shared based on individual abilities
  • Indoor window sill pots with herbs or lettuce, vegetables
  • A small greenhouse

The idea is to assess needs, abilities, individual likes and dislikes and then get to work. No rush, no major adjustments, just a nice ease into the process. By spending a little time planning and making choices that fit the individual situation your parents can grow some tasty food to improve their health, get a little exercise to keep the heart working better, stave off some boredom, and feel productive. Maybe there will even be enough produced from their little venture to share with family or friends. Everyone wins!

What do  you think? Was this helpful? Do you have comments you’d like to share? I’m open for suggestions and appreciate all interaction.

Thank you to my readers for following along. I love to hear from you and appreciate your support.

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