I recently went to help my 82 year old mother in law who broke her leg. I showed up ready to take over the cooking and cleaning, driving and appointments. I also work two jobs and have two young children and a husband who travels for work. While I was there she constantly asked me to plant her garden as she could not do it this year. I kept putting it off as there were more pressing and essential things that needed to be done. I felt like I was doing the job of 3 people. Finally she cornered me and asked about her garden again – for the 11th time. So, I got up and went to go do it.
I know nothing about gardening but she was right there to tell me EXACTLY what to do. After about 1 hour of being on my hands and knees I finally told her I couldn’t do it anymore. I have rheumatoid arthritis and was in agony being bent on the ground for so long. I looked over and she began to weep. My mother in law who is brave, strong and very stoic was reduced to tears. I felt just terrible and I also began to cry. I felt awful that I could not do this for her. I felt my failing. I understood she was mourning yet another loss, something she could no longer do. I felt her pain. I felt guilty I did not have more energy, and more physical capability. Then angry that she was asking too much of me and not focussing on the essential things that needed to be done. Then I was back to feeling guilty again – a typical caregiver pattern.
I was out getting groceries later that day and I came across a beautiful succulent planter. I bought it for her along with a book on how to care for succulents and some special plant food. I gave it to her when I got home. These plants live indoors and require very little maintenance. I set it up right by her recliner and put everything in reach so she could care for it. I told her it may not be her big outside garden but it was something she could grow, care for and watch thrive. She was touched and pleased.
It got me thinking, how many seniors can no longer garden. Some have downsized and have no access to green space, some have health issues that prevent them from doing so. I was reminded that small pleasures are important to our mental well being. Access to nature and the ability to care for something is equally important. I started thinking everyone would benefit from a succulent – especially seniors. That is how my project Succulents for Seniors was born. I was able to distribute 20 succulent planters to seniors in the community with the caption “ please take a succulent and try and find a moment to enjoy life’s small pleasures.”