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Holiday gift ideas for the senior on your list

Journals, books, a travel box and something for the foodie on your list.

My Health Journal an in-depth health tracker for seniors

During the pandemic, Calgary LPN Shelley McLellan (aspencarehealth.com) saw the toll isolation was taking on seniors in her care. When there wasn't family around to help share information between residents and staff--especially in dementia care--it was sometimes difficult to communicate. That's when the idea for My Health Journal was born, a 300-page organizational system with space to recount all relevant and important things about a senior. From daily blood pressure readings to a section describing the individual--who they once were, their likes, dislikes, life story, the tracker features 19 sections in all.

"This isn't meant to take away from the Green Sleeve (an AHS-provided plastic pocket holding Advance Care Planning documents)," said McLellan. "The journal is an in-depth communication tool seniors and their families can access all in one place. It has space for emergency contacts, etc. but also gives room to write about diet and food sensitivities, pain control and mobility. It puts everyone who cares for the senior on the same page and removes the need to repeat their story to every caregiver that comes along."

Available through myhealthjournals.com, McLellan says the $55 My Health Journals are set to go into hospitals and health care teaching facilities too. "Our mission at My Health Journals is to elevate senior health care across Canada," she said. "And we created our Gift Giving program that enables donations of the journals to people who need it most."

Journals have been donated to Alberta facilities including the Calgary Senior Resource Society, The Kerby Centre, Caregivers Alberta, and the Chartwell group of senior residences.

Paradise Road a story of longing for love and belonging--starting in Edmonton's River Valley

Paradise Road is a pleasurable, easy read, but a page-turner too. I read Marilyn Kriete's debut memoir on a road trip home to Winnipeg, and was taken by the recounting of a pivotal period in her life--when she ran away from her troubled Edmonton home at 14, met and then lost the love of her life, Jack, to cancer, and finally found herself and a purpose while on a solo bicycle trip that was part tribute, part life test.

"I did therapy before I wrote this story, and that helped process some of the grief," said 65-year-old Kriete, who calls herself a 60s hippie that now lives and writes In Kelowna, B.C.  "The 22-year-old Marilyn in the book buried a lot of grief after losing Jack, and went into hibernation after those traumas. There are more memoirs to come, exploring the mid-life crises that followed after I woke up."

Reading Paradise Road, one wonders how the young Kriete managed in a neglectful, sometimes abusive home. That relationship with her parents is one she'll unpack in subsequent memoirs, she says. The same goes for finding faith on her cycling quest and afterwards, and how it led to a life of service, marriage, living abroad and adopting her son. Paradise Road is on amazon.ca

Permission to play with your food: Food Crayon

I used to love colouring when I was young, but now I can bring my interest in crayons to the kitchen with this neat idea: a spice crayon. Canadian made and available online, the spice crayon can be sharpened into flavour shavings to enhance meals and cocktails. The all-natural product comes in four collections: fresh, sweet & sour, spicy and exotic. 

Nadia Lahrichi, president of the Montreal-based Foodie Family, says though the pandemic has shown us we can lose some of life's big pleasures, small everyday joys are always attainable. "A plate of pasta is great, but is even better with chili and garlic shavings. Same for chocolate cake. Raspberry and balsamic shavings take it from good to divine," she said.

Each crayon includes 18 grams of seasoning, which is around 120 shavings to enhance food or drink. Crayons are sold in single units or in kits, ranging from $12-$65 at foodcrayon.com

Not ready to travel yet? No problem

Subscription boxes are all the rage, where buyers get a monthly or seasonal delivery of goods on a theme. Quebec-based Trouvailles, for example, offers a travel box with items from a particular destination--samples of food, crafts etc. I saw a recent box on Indonesia, which contained a wooden ring holder, a couple of Indonesian sweets, tea, a Mala necklace, and a Batik tablet case. It's a cute assortment and, along with a written primer on the destination, a fun way to feel like you're already there.

Trouvailles ships bi-monthly to Canada and the U.S. and cost includes shipping. See trouvaillesbox.com for more.