Birthday festivities for a housebound 75-year old?
February 24, 2014 2:43 PM   Subscribe

My aunt from this question turns 75 in 2 weeks, and my brother and I are trying to create a festive atmosphere for her in the days leading up to and on the day. She's housebound and in pain/severe discomfort due to illness, so we cant take her out for a meal or have a big party or any of the usual festive events. But 75 is a big deal, and we want to mark this event. Details, and initial ideas, inside

Some pertinent details:
- Her daughter and son-in-law, some of her siblings, and a few nieces / nephews are in the same city as her. Everyone else is on different continents
- She won't have the energy for a long celebration
- Assume money no object
- She has a small apartment, further cluttered with the apparatus of her illness, and we don't want to add 'stuff' for her to accumulate
- whatever we do needs to feel like it comes from the whole family, not a subset
- I would love to do this as 'Birthday week' - so have small festive events in the days leading up to her actual birthday (a Saturday). On the day, we plan to have a small party with those of her family members who are in town - some bubbly drinks, a cake, a toast
- She is in London. I am in Boston. My brother will be in London for the next couple weeks and will execute on details, but assume that we only have 2 people to carry this out (although we can and will pay for help if needed)

I would love ideas for things we can do to create a fun, festive feeling for her without being overwhelming or tiring. Some ideas so far (feel free to enhance/embellish or point out why something wont work):
- 3 days before her birthday - have balloons delivered. something pretty and not too cheesy. Suggestions for where to buy or order balloons in North London appreciated.
- 2 days before her birthday - an OBNOXIOUS flower delivery. really over the top (not size wise, but luxe wise)
- 1 day before her birthday - a slideshow of photos from her life, set to music, as she has breakfast. I'd need to get digitized photos from family members, but can do this. I am also thinking I intersperse with key (happy) world events during her life - although that could get cheesy
- Birthday - get non-local family members to record a birthday greeting to her - audio or video - this week. I would then consolidate into one file (any ideas how to do this?) maybe with music? As soon as people have gathered for the celebration, play the greetings, then pop bubbly, cut cake etc.

Any and all ideas welcome - I would love to make this day and week special for her
posted by darsh to Human Relations (7 answers total)
Cheesy is okay.

Your plans are wonderful - she's a fortunate woman to have family who cares so much.

I'd question the flowers, though, with her illness. Be sure that she has flowers from time to time right now and she doesn't complain about them bothering her. Sometimes they can aggravate breathing or sinus problems. If flowers won't work - and if she has a caregiver who can water them - some nice houseplants might be the ticket.

Your idea of doing a little each day for a week before the birthday in order not to tire her is excellent.

Every expression of love is a kindness and you're doing a nice job of being kind.
posted by aryma at 4:38 PM on February 24, 2014

Can you get far flung relatives to make her a video? Maybe each reminding her of a special memory? Even if she doesn't have a computer, you can find a tablet or photo frame to play videos.
posted by 26.2 at 5:14 PM on February 24, 2014

My Mother is in a similar physical condition. Things which she has enjoyed and didn't tire her out have been:

*Lots of birthday cards! She enjoyed them more than calls, skype, etc. since they can be placed all over the house and she is cheered seeing them.

*She has done best with a small group for her birthday dinner. A larger group arrived after dinner for an hour of cake and ice cream.

*She has loved having a box full of good wishes. I requested friends and family write cheery thoughts, memories, poems, etc. on index cards of various colors. They are brief enough to keep her focused. Each day she can choose one and it brightens up her day.

*Since she is largely house bound gifts that bring the outdoors to her are appreciated. Bird feeders by a window, bulbs being forced (watching and anticipating are fun), prisms hung to cast rainbows in her room, videos of wildlife and one of her favorites was a tape a friend made of sounds captured on her vacation to Paris - just random city sounds, birds, children playing - all helped bring a bit of the world to her.

*Gifts which encourage interaction such as a nice rich body lotion, a manicure, a pedicure. The grandkids often don't know what to say to her. I found a deck of cards which has people share memories and thoughts. This has lead to many interesting exchanges and serves as a good starting point for conversation, especially with those who feel awkward in a sickbed setting.

*An offer to help her catch up on correspondence was very appreciated. She can't write but was able to dictate thank you notes and short letters.

Just a thought - My Mother would not have enjoyed a personal slideshow. Her illness has left her body unrecognizable from even five years ago. She hates seeing her image now as it just reminds her of the horrors of the disease. Seeing how vibrant her body was in the past leaves her very depressed. Each person is different but just wanted to share a pov that you may not have considered.

Hope she has a terrific birthday!
posted by cat_link at 6:38 PM on February 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

Start sending things like cards, magazines, little consumable gifts (fancy soaps, lotions, treats, toe nail polish.) I'd start at the beginning of the month.

Would a tablet be a nice gift? She can play games when she's up to it, subscribe to newspapers and magazines on-line, read books, listen to music.

My Mom is in her seventies, and loves her tablet. LOVES it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:11 AM on February 25, 2014

I like the idea of greetings, memories, videos, etc to be collected from friends, but instead of trying to compile all the various inputs together, let them be separate and share a few each day.
posted by CathyG at 9:19 AM on February 25, 2014

One idea we've done in my family is we collected memories of a grandparent on little slips of paper from each family member (we have a small family so we had each person do like 4 or 5 of them) and then we filled up a jar with them. She could put one out each day (or anytime she felt like it) and read it. Large type for easy reading is key. If she likes low tech she might like this too.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 12:46 PM on February 25, 2014

My grandmother loved live music--when she was housebound, we would often arrange for friends to come over and play instruments for an hour or so in the afternoon. She found it delightful, and it was pretty easy on her (all she had to do was sit in a chair). It might be feasible to hire a musician (something mellow, like classical guitar or jazz piano) to play during the party. We had a couple of birthdays for her that consisted of a few family members having afternoon tea, plus a friend playing folk guitar, that she really enjoyed and didn't tire her out.
posted by Nibbly Fang at 8:39 AM on March 1, 2014

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