Frugal Eldercare Part 4: Holiday Fun on the Cheap

Once or twice a month, we take a break from our usual weekend chores and have “family day”, an affordable afternoon outing with Dad that includes lunch or dinner. Last weekend, we decided we wanted to get out and enjoy some of the Christmas cheer. Dad isn’t very mobile these days and he tires easily, requiring that whatever outing we chose come with places to rest.

Because it was raining and a bit windy, we settled on an indoor activity rather than something outdoors like the Zoo Lights. We headed downtown to Pacific Place, an upscale mall in the heart of downtown Seattle. While we aren’t avid shoppers, Pacific Place has some nice restaurants, conveniently placed benches, live holiday music, and a collection of nutcrackers decorated by local artists.

Normally, we park in the lot underneath Pacific Place which has ample disabled parking and nice elevators. However, this time the lot was full and we chanced parking in an old building across the street. The building we parked in must have been built in the early part of the 20th century and then converted to a garage because many of the parking places were so small that we couldn’t fit our tiny Prius c in them.

The other major drawback to the building was the lack of an elevator. Instead, there was a very steep staircase that Dad had difficulty getting down. We had parked on the 4th floor, and were wondering how we were going to get Dad down all those steps despite his trooper mentality. Luckily, we met a nice, middle-aged lady coming up the stairs to return to her car. She saw Dad and offered to give him a ride down, saying that she was picking up her disabled friend at the base of the stairs. Usually, my husband and I wouldn’t  consider accepting a ride from a stranger, but we felt that it would probably be fine as there was only one way out of the building, and she wasn’t giving off any bad vibes. It would be impossible for her to drive off with Dad without us intercepting her at the bottom. True to her word, we saw her friend waiting at the bottom, and a few minutes later, Dad was dropped off with no fuss or bother. Thank goodness for the kindness of strangers!

We then headed across the street to the mall. The side walk was very sloped and Dad and I had to walk with arms linked so he wouldn’t lose his balance. But, we made it safely inside, and took the 2 elevators required to get upstairs to the dining floor. We had lunch at a Mexican restaurant which we often eat at when downtown to see a movie a few times a year. The restaurant has a nice selection of meals and can accommodate a variety of dietary restrictions. The shopping season was in full swing, so the restaurant was very busy, and hence very slow. But, we found seating at a table in the bar and were able to spend time chatting and trying to guess which international soccer teams were playing.

After our meal, we walked around the mall and looked at the nutcrackers, commenting on which ones we liked and why. The mall sponsors a nutcracker decorating project every year, and there is quite a bit of variety. The artwork goes up for sale at the end of the holiday season. Dad and I liked the nutcracker we are posed with in the photo accompanying this article. The artist had tiled her nutcracker with surplus tiles and the effect was beautiful.

We missed the last of the live music, and the next performance wasn’t for 2 hours, so we took the sky bridge over to Nordstrom to return a couple of items that did not fit. Nordstrom was also very busy and decked out for the holidays. After a few minutes there Dad felt tired so we headed home.

Elderly Outing Tips:

  • Choose activities that take into consideration: weather, proximity to parking, rest areas, and bathrooms
  • Research parking options before travel
  • Look for family restrooms in venues
  • Limit the length of the activity to your parent’s energy levels
  • Choose activities that are close to home and can be cut short easily if needed
  • Bring a picnic lunch or find restaurants that can accommodate dietary restrictions
  • Ask venues if they rent wheelchairs to visitors

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