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Caring for the elderly. Birdwatching from a lazy boy recliner!

Updated on October 13, 2014

Creating a window to the world for an elderly loved one

As we age into our senior years, most of us may find that our mobility decreases. We just may find ourselves rooted to a favorite chair more than we expected, and we may spend more time watching TV. My 94 year old Mother spends a LOT of time watching the "who's the baby daddy shows' - yes, that's really what she calls Judge Judy et al. So, life may slow up and your favorite senior citizen may become more chair bound, but that doesn't mean you can't give them something to look at besides the TV.

As the full time caregiver to my Mom, Gertie, I've found many creative ways to keep her mind engaged and give us something to talk about at the same time. I accomplished part of this task by creating a window to the world for her to enjoy. The below article will, hopefully, give you an idea about how to enrich the life of your favorite senior citizen and be kind to the wild birds in your yard at the same time.

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Might as well give the birds a place to lay their little birdy heads

Having bird houses around the yard will entice birds to stick around.

This is the view from my Mom's bedroom window
This is the view from my Mom's bedroom window

Step 1: Find the window!

Caring for the elderly can be a very daunting task. One of the hardest things I have to do when caring for my elderly mom is to be fascinating - hard as it might be to imagine, I ain't all that interesting....So, I decided to come up with some way to entertain her and give myself a break at the same time - Enter the idea of decorating the outdoors for interest.

Since Mom mostly sits in the living room, I started looking at the various windows and considering the view. Fairly drab. I didn't blame her for being bored. So, I set about to create an interesting view to at least give her something to look at.

So, the first part of creating some interesting views outside an elderly person's window is to, well, find a window. Locate a window that is in the room where your elderly friend spends most of the time. It's preferable if the window has some natural sunlight coming in at sometime during the day. Sunlight is just naturally cheery.

Ok, so now you have a window. Now what? You need to rearrange the furniture in the room so that your elderly loved one's favorite chair or sofa is in a prime viewing spot. Be sensitive to any limitations such as a blind eye or a deaf ear. Try to place your senior citizen's chair in a position so they can view the outdoor scene without craning their neck or twisting their back. A straight view out of the window is always the best choice so that your senior citizen can easily see the comings and goings on outside.

Remember in Rear Window when Jimmy Stewart played a man whose view from the window was so compelling? Hopefully, your senior citizen will be more interested in viewing the flowers and birds which you coax into place for convenient viewing....

This picture is the view I created from my Mom's bedroom window. When my Dad died in 2007, Mom came to live with me, and I was an instant caregiver for the elderly. In a memorial for my Dad, I created this garden which has appropriately named plants such as "Forget Me Nots," and "Poker Plants" (Dad was a gambler). My Mom loves to look at the garden every day and tell me what's new out there. It brings her much joy.

A professionals view of how to attract birds to a window

Best-Ever Backyard Birding Tips: Hundreds of Easy Ways to Attract the Birds You Love to Watch (Rodale Organic Gardening Books)
Best-Ever Backyard Birding Tips: Hundreds of Easy Ways to Attract the Birds You Love to Watch (Rodale Organic Gardening Books)

This book is a wonderful resource to help you attract just the right birds to your senior citizen's window.

 
This hummingbird kept my Mom amazed for hours
This hummingbird kept my Mom amazed for hours

Step 2: Make goals and plan your window view.

Your next step is to make a list of goals for what you hope to accomplish in the window view for your elderly friend. My Mom loves cardinals and birds so her window viewed from her living room chair has two bird feeders and a hummingbird feeder. She loves to even watch the squirrel which are not the least bit baffled by my squirrel-proof bird feeders (ha!). She also loves flowers so I have a few pots of plants on the deck which she can easily view. For this coming summer, I have a lush background planned with potted palm trees which are seasonal here in Maryland. But, the $50 for a plant will be a small price to pay to keep my Mom entertained watching her window.

Ask your senior citizen if there are any special birds they'd like to see. My Mom just loves cardinals so I put out birdseed specific to attracting cardinals and other song birds.

Once you've got a clear idea of what the view from the window will be, now is the time to start picking up supplies. For the best, most professional advice on how to attract birds, visit your local wildbird store. Another good strategy is to talk with friends who live nearby and find out what birds they see or what plants thrive in their yards as plants mean shelter to birds so you should have plenty planted in the background. If you've got great friends, organize a plant swap to cut the costs of decorating your own garden. After all, one only needs so many hostas!

Attracting Hummingbirds

Hummingbirds are the most fascinating birds of all, imho. I can sit and watch them for hours and hours, as can be evidenced by the photos below. This particular feeder attracts hummingbirds by the thousands, it seems. They buzz all around and fight to get to the flower petals.

The best way, by far to attract hummingbirds is to plant flowers that they can feed from during the summer hours. Fill your outdoor space with trumpet flowers, bee balm, red columbine, fushia, rose of sharon, or butterfly bushes (you'll have a double whammy by planting this beautiful flowering plant as butterflies love this too.

To augment your flowering garden in attracting hummingbirds, hang a few hummingbird feeder outside the window for your senior friend to enjoy. The below are decorative hummingbird feeders on Amazon.

Hummingbirds abound!

Click thumbnail to view full-size
First hummingbird finds the feeder at 10:10am......and checks it out...... Hot diggity! Food!Another hummingbird comes in from the rightAt some points, there were as many as 5 hummingbirds enchanting my Mom around this feederMy squirrel proof feeder is not quite so...This squirrel figured out how to take off the bungee cord holding the top......And helping himselfThe feeder was set out at 10 am
First hummingbird finds the feeder at 10:10am...
First hummingbird finds the feeder at 10:10am...
...and checks it out...
...and checks it out...
... Hot diggity! Food!
... Hot diggity! Food!
Another hummingbird comes in from the right
Another hummingbird comes in from the right
At some points, there were as many as 5 hummingbirds enchanting my Mom around this feeder
At some points, there were as many as 5 hummingbirds enchanting my Mom around this feeder
My squirrel proof feeder is not quite so...
My squirrel proof feeder is not quite so...
This squirrel figured out how to take off the bungee cord holding the top...
This squirrel figured out how to take off the bungee cord holding the top...
...And helping himself
...And helping himself
The feeder was set out at 10 am
The feeder was set out at 10 am

Step 3: Gather the supplies needed - Invest in some decent materials and your senior citizen will be delighted with the view for a long time.

The window view you're creating for your senior citizen friend will be prettier if you collect and use the right items. The below items are all in own backyard and keep the birds, and 94 year old Gertie happy.

Aududon Park 12231 Cardinal Blend Wild Bird Food, 4-Pounds
Aududon Park 12231 Cardinal Blend Wild Bird Food, 4-Pounds

This seed blend always has cardinals buzzing around. I've seen as many as 7 male cardinals at the feeder when its freshly filled.

 

Step 4: Build the window view for your senior citizen - Here comes the fun!

Building the view for your elderly friend is going to take two people. You can do it alone but you'll be running back and forth a lot. Have one person check the view from the senior citizen's chair so that the items you're placing in the window view are clearly within viewable by your senior citizen loved one. Don't forget to account for sitting position and height of your elderly friend while in their chair. No sense building a view for a 6"2" man when your mother can't see over the windowsill (we tend to shrink as we age).

The view from the window will be most striking if there is just one beautiful focal point. A large attractive bird feeder might just do the trick. If you have a deck railing, buy a heavy duty shepherd's hook to hang the bird feeder - remember, when full, a bird feeder can weight a lot so it needs to be supported. And, don't forget about the added weight of the squirrels who will come a runnin'!

Or, use a large potted plant as an anchor for a shepherd's hook on which to hang your senior citizen's new bird feeder. Just dig the shepherd's hook right into the soil, down about 6" or so. It's best to still weight down the bottom of the hook with bricks or some other heavy item just in case of wind gusts.

You don't have to just hang bird feeders to attract birds. In fact, the best way to attract birds year round is to let nature do it. Plant flowers and shrubs that attract birds and butterflies. For example, the red flower in the picture has hummingbirds racing to feed morning and night. Plants with berries, such as blueberries, will attract all types of birds but, be mindful of where you place these plants. There's nothing quite like coming out to the driveway one morning and finding your previously green car coated in blue "goo."

A butterfly bush with its lovely purple blooms will keep butterflies hovering around your window view all summer. It's a total bonus that a butterfly bush will only multiply and grow year after year - perennials are nice that way.

Senior Citizen Gert tells a fishy story

No, it doesn't really fit into this lens but I just love this video of my mom telling a story on my dearly departed dad. Still cracks me up.

Make sure there's a flower or two around

Clinical studies have shown that senior citizens are generally more cheerful and alert when flowers are around. Why not keep a few pots of flowering plants so there's always fresh blooms to brighten a senior's day?

This gorgeous orchid was given to us 4 years ago, right after my Dad died. Little did I believe that I could not only keep it alive but keep it thriving. The blooms which occur every November stay fresh on this plant until March - It's just amazing. This past year, I didn't cut back the stalk which flowered, just to see what would happen. Lookie, lookie! More blooms in April! Albeit, these blooms are much smaller than the November blooms but Mom and I both consider this a bonus.

birdwatching
birdwatching

How about bringing the outside in with a parakeet?

I just took the plunge and bought my mom a yellow parakeet. I was intent upon naming him "Lemonchello" to go along with the theme names of my dogs (Barley, Hops, Killian, Margarita, Matee and Gizmo). I walked in, Mom asked me what the bird's name was. I replied "Lemonchello." Mom shook her head and said "Tweety." So, enter Tweety the bird. He chirps for mom every morning and stops chirping when she sits in her chair. She loves watching him play in his cage.

Make sure though, before you get a bird, you know what you're getting into. The little suckers live 10 years or so and make a mess. I do like having the little chirper around though.

Here's an article I wrote about Tricking out a parakeet cage. Tweety is stylin'...

A happy 94 year old with a basket full of garden flowers

A happy 94 year old with a basket full of garden flowers
A happy 94 year old with a basket full of garden flowers

Your senior citizen friend will love these binoculars!

Olympus Tracker 8x25 Porro Prism Compact & Lightweight Binocular
Olympus Tracker 8x25 Porro Prism Compact & Lightweight Binocular

Binoculars of old used to be very heavy and bulky but not so in today's world. These Olympus Tracker binoculars weigh in at just 9.9 ounces. They are so lightweight that even the most fragile senior citizen should be able to hold them. And, the 8x magnification will bring those birds right inside the room! Invest in a part today. You'll make your elderly friend very happy.

 

Some things to consider when attracting birds... - ...and some warnings to heed!

Through a lot of trials and tribulations, I've finally figured out a thing or two about how to attract birds. Did I mention tribulations? Here are a few....

  1. VERY IMPORTANT! Never ever buy a bird house with a tin or metal roof. The roof will heat up in the sun, effectively cooking any baby birds. You might well be serving crow (babies) for dinner - pardon me; couldn't help the pun....
  2. Be mindful of the mess that a bird feeder creates. Not only will stray seed be strewn on the ground but bird poop will be evident also. So, if you're putting your bird feeder on a shepherd's crook on a deck railing, face the shepherd's crook OUT so that the seed and feces end up in the yard.
  3. Bird feeders may attract more than the pretty birds your senior citizen is craving. Bird feeders also attract mice and rats so make sure to place them at a decent distance from the house. This creates a problem with the feeders meant to stick right to the window. In this case, fashion a catch tray underneath the bird feeder to catch the seed which may drop and empty it once a day.
  4. Hummingbirds are particularly susceptible to spoiled food and, since they drink sugar water from a bird feeder, you need to thoroughly clean and refill the bird feeder every other day. No sense killing off the birds your elderly Mom wanted to watch!
  5. If you decide to hang bird feeders, it's only fair to keep them filled. This is not quite as important during the summer when birds have plenty of food on which to forage. But, during the winter, if you've fed the birds, you could possibly have kept them from migrating so your bird feeder so they become dependent on your bird feeder as their primary food source. Keep it full!
  6. More is not necessarily better. I couldn't figure out why the birds stopped going to the bird feeder outside my Mom's feeder until I sat outside and watched the action one morning. I had gotten carried away and put out 3 other feeders that, evidently, were in prime spots. I stopped filling those feeders and, sure enough, birdies are again feeding where I want them to!

Please come read these blogs

These are excellent blogs and resources for anyone considering caregiving or actually caregiving now. They'll help keep you sane.

Gert and I LOVE to get comments - the good, the bad, and the ugly. - Thanks for stopping by!

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    • qikey1 lm profile image

      qikey1 lm 3 years ago

      Very touching lens! I have always thought that every old age 'home' should have bird feeders set up for their residents. Gertie is adorable! I just want to reach in to your lens and hug her!

    • mariacarbonara profile image

      mariacarbonara 4 years ago

      I love having birds and butterflies in the garden. Will definitely use this great information. Good lens

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Gertie, your smile says it all once again, thank you for opening up your window to the world to us all. I love hummingbirds too and once at my sisters, I sat out for hours at one decided to do his mating swoop for his lady, it was majestic!

    • Joan Haines profile image

      Joan Haines 5 years ago

      This is perfect for my mom too.

    • JanTUB profile image

      Jan T Urquhart Baillie 6 years ago from Australia

      I love what you've discovered and what a lovely new pastime for your Mum.

    • Diane Cass profile image

      Diane Cass 6 years ago from New York

      Your mom is so CUTE! I love that you made a birding window for her. How lucky she is to have you. Great ideas.

    • profile image

      lr-duval 6 years ago

      great lens, lots of interesting information

    • gottaloveit2 profile image
      Author

      gottaloveit2 6 years ago

      @Monika Weise: Yes, Monika. I understand. My Mom came to live with me 4.5 years ago, the day after Dad died so I really haven't even had time to miss him at the moment. That will have to hold for another day.

    • Monika Weise profile image

      Monika Weise 6 years ago from Indianapolis, IN USA

      This lens reminded me of my Dad....we had to do this kind of thing for him. I still miss him.

    • KayeSI profile image

      KayeSI 6 years ago

      Great lens. Thank you. I loved your tips and helps. My senior mom loves gardening AND all the birds, squirrels, and rabbits that join her for it. Right now, she is still able to get around, but not as easily as she used to. So we've consolidated all her projects in two spots to make it easier for her. I loved your ideas for more of a "sitting garden" for future. Thanks.

    • linhah lm profile image

      Linda Hahn 6 years ago from California

      Lensrolled this to my I'm Surprised We Don't Take Them Out Back And Shoot Them.

    • gottaloveit2 profile image
      Author

      gottaloveit2 6 years ago

      @Scarlettohairy: Thanks Peggy! As I always say, if momma ain't happy, ain't no one happy! Best to keep her entertained.

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 6 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      I adore the pictures of Gert and the birds (and even the darned squirrel!). That is so nice to consider the view and fix it so Momma has a good view. My parents kept a bird feeder stand out the kitchen window and watched cardinals feed all winter.

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 6 years ago from Canada

      I just stopped back and the video of your mom telling her story had me giggling like crazy too. Laughter is indeed infectious.

    • Ramkitten2000 profile image

      Deb Kingsbury 6 years ago from Flagstaff, Arizona

      This is a lovely idea. Thank you for sharing it. I'm a caregiver as well, for my 82 year-old widowed mom, who has vascular demensia and decreased mobility following two strokes (and who had limited mobility before them as well). And one of the things she really enjoys is to watch the birds and squirrels. We have a nice patio area where she can do that, but when the weather is cold, sitting out there is not an option. Creating a place directly outside a large window is a great idea and one I'll give more thought to before next winter.

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 6 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      Love this page about Caring for the Elderly. Wonderful suggestion for creating a Window to the World. My hubby and I really enjoy bird watching. He will be 80 in another month but thankfully he isn't home bound yet but when we are, we will definitely remember these great suggestions.

    • profile image

      Joan4 6 years ago

      This is absolutely wonderful! I love the birds, too. and our granddaughter likes us to sit at the kitchen table as she "charts" the birds that come to the feeders. Your page is amazing and I will return again and again as I continue to work on my own little bird sanctuary!

    • gottaloveit2 profile image
      Author

      gottaloveit2 6 years ago

      @MargoPArrowsmith: Thanks, Margo! I'm so new to Squidoo, I have no idea what a purple star award is but it sure sounds fancy! I'll email you about your blog - not sure what you want.

    • MargoPArrowsmith profile image

      MargoPArrowsmith 6 years ago

      I love this lens so much that I have nominated it for a purple star award! I was very serious about having you put something about this on my blog! Please contact me!

    • gottaloveit2 profile image
      Author

      gottaloveit2 6 years ago

      Thanks you everyone for your nice comments. The Squidoo community is amazing. Loving it here - hopefully, one day, the money will follow!

    • MargoPArrowsmith profile image

      MargoPArrowsmith 6 years ago

      I absolutely love this lens. I have lensrolled it to "Changing the Guard" and would really, really love you to guest write something about this for my blog!

      Oh, yes, and I have Angel Blessed this and lensrolled it to "Born to Be Angelic"

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 6 years ago from Canada

      I am the squid Angel for the Aging neighborhood and I am just fluttering by to let you know that this lens is one of my top ten favorite lenses in this category. It is featured at: http://www.squidoo.com/looking-for-council-on-age-... Best wishes.

    • gottaloveit2 profile image
      Author

      gottaloveit2 6 years ago

      I am SO touched by the kindness of the Squidoo community. Evelyn: I'm on the Audubon backyard count. Just looked it up. I think Mom and I would love to participate! Thanks so much for mentioning it.

    • evelynsaenz1 profile image

      Evelyn Saenz 6 years ago from Royalton

      Your mother might like to participate in the Great Backyard Birdcount which is sponsored each year by the Audubon Society. All you have to do is keep track of the number and kinds of birds seen in your backyard for a 15 minute period during one of the four days of the count and send in the results. http://www.birdsource.org/gbbc/

    • evelynsaenz1 profile image

      Evelyn Saenz 6 years ago from Royalton

      Blessed by a SquidAngel.

    • evelynsaenz1 profile image

      Evelyn Saenz 6 years ago from Royalton

      Wonderful article. It reminds me of my grandmother who loved gardening and watching the birds. She passed away several years ago at age 98. I plan to use the tips you offer to improve the views from the windows in my house. As my dad ages, there may come a time that he comes to live with me and I would like to have my house ready. In the meantime, flowers and birds will be an attraction for my bed and breakfast guests.

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 6 years ago from Canada

      I just stopped back to see how your article is doing and I am so happy to see it sitting so much higher in the rankings. This is a wonderful article and I will be featuring it on my review of the Top articles in Aging. I'll drop you the link when I get it finished. Best wishes.

    • gottaloveit2 profile image
      Author

      gottaloveit2 6 years ago

      @bossypants: Thanks for the nice words. Mom and I just went out yesterday to gather more supplies. I'm glad to get her out of the house when the weather breaks.

    • bossypants profile image

      bossypants 6 years ago from America's Dairyland

      What a generous and thoughtful lens! I love the way you included suggested resources into the steps for creating a window view. I'd gladly pull a comfy chair up to the window with a pretty garden like yours!

    • profile image

      alyssa87 6 years ago

      very informative, this serves as a guide for all those interested in providing their elders some good activities

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Thanks for sharing such a lovely lens about caring for the elderly. Parents do so much for their children and so in the old age whatever we can do for them is less.

    • gottaloveit2 profile image
      Author

      gottaloveit2 6 years ago

      @Virginia Allain: Virginia, thanks for stopping by! I hope your Mom and Dad are doing well.

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 6 years ago from Central Florida

      A very insightful article. I'm visiting my mom and dad next week and will be sure to check the view from their windows. Right now their chairs face the TV and they hardly get out at all.

      They do talk about the wren that nests on their front porch.

    • gottaloveit2 profile image
      Author

      gottaloveit2 6 years ago

      @Lady Lorelei: Thank you SO much for the wonderful comment! I do truly love my Mom and am so glad I have her with me. She's my joy (mostly!)

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 6 years ago from Canada

      This is absolutely the best article that I have read on aging and caring for the elderly in a long time. Realistic, heart warming, and absolutely wonderful. Blessed and best wishes to you.

    • gottaloveit2 profile image
      Author

      gottaloveit2 6 years ago

      @anonymous: Sorry Nan. After this gig is up, I'm retiring my caregiving skills

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      will you look after me as I age? (by the way won't be shrinking nope not going there)