Thursday, January 30, 2014

Elderly Friendly Places to Visit in Atlanta

Looking for places to take your (very) elderly loved ones in Atlanta with no hassle, that everyone will actually enjoy? This post is dedicated to what we discover. This is based upon our personal experience, and speculation where noted.

Note: When I started this post, I was determined to try anything and everything that might appeal to my mother.  Our needs are/were specific - places that my now 90-year old mother would find appealing, and where she would be accommodated.  With Mom living with us, we have been very interested in finding ways for her to socialize outside the home.  Mom has advanced dementia, so not every day is one that we can go out and about, but when we do, it is great for her. I have since added a new criteria, and that is how elderly-friendly it is. By this I mean, literally, are people friendly to old people, or will my mother feel out of place? I have to say, I still haven't found where very old people hang out (other than nursing homes, that is.)


1. Accessibility
Handicap parking near the door, even pavements, wide aisles, comfortable, stable seating. Both walker and wheel-chair friendly.

2. Stimulating environment, but not too much
Low sound levels, not to much overlay of sounds or background chatter. Sun, comfortable decor, engaging stuff around. No chaos, not too fancy.

3. Recognizable
Yes to Gardens, No to Tech Stores.

4. Has times of day when there are people, but not crowds

5. Understanding, supportive staff who don't roll their eyes when you show up with an elderly person.

6. Inside the perimeter

7. New criteria: Welcoming to the elderly

8. New criteria: The opportunity for assistance


Athens Pizza on Clairmont
We've had the best luck here. The layout is simple, and easy to wheel or walker in. The staff is friendly and accommodating. The menu is a little confusing for Mom because she is not familiar with Greek food, so I end up ordering spaghetti or lasagna for her.

Tin Drum - Atlantic Station
It was fine.

Thinking Man Tavern
It was fine. Mainly I like that the food is recognizable to a nonagenarian.

Bambinelli's Northlake
Really good; the staff was friendly and accommodating. There are tables and booths, and the food is good, recognizable, hearty fare. It is family style, with a very comfortable atmosphere. It isn't a really long way from handicap parking spot to the front door, so Mom can walker in.


Atlanta Botanical Gardens
We love the BotGar! It just has to be a warm day. We wheelchair around the paths (some of which could be of a smoother pavement), and enjoy the people and plants. Going inside the buildings is a little harder as the exhibits have narrow pathways. Not impossible, but definitely to be avoided on a busy day.

Atlanta Zoo
We've been once. It is highly accessible with good, smoothly paved walkways. I got a major workout wheeling Mom around because some of the

Atlantic Station
Good. It is very wheelchair accessible, has lots of variety for window-shopping or people watching, and yet it is not overwhelming. We also visited the Dillards while there and I think we were a little too scruffy for them. But, Mom did seem to enjoy looking at the stuff.

Stone Mountain
Kind of good. Mom wasn't interested in the village, but she did kind of enjoy driving around the park. I imagine someone with more energy would enjoy wheelchairing some of the paved paths, or a picnic.

Central Dekalb Senior Center at Mason Mill
Extremely disappointed that this was clearly not for us. This is for senior citizens who are still pretty active, who wish to play bridge, learn stuff, get together for lunch. Now, all that is truly fantastic, and the facility is really nice, but my mother just isn't that active. I was hoping to connect to other families who are taking care of their elderly parents at home, but no go.

Northlake Mall
Pretty good. We park at the handicap parking at the Sears entrance. Sometimes Sears is enough for Mom before she gets fatigued, but sometimes we wheel all around. Again, it is just a chance for Mom to see other people of all ages.

PAWS Atlanta
Mixed, with great potential. I actually went through Volunteer Training so that I could bring Mom and we could pet the small dogs. She loved the idea. Not very accessible, but we did get through to the outside area in back and I 'checked out' a couple of small dogs. Mom ended up wanting to take them all home so it was actually a little confusing to her. Others might find this a wonderful outing.

Mom actually enjoys going to the grocery store. It is a very familiar, almost comforting place for her, and she feels that she's contributing something. Logistically though, it is difficult. It is too far for her to walker, but when she's in the wheelchair, there is limited place to put the groceries. I put a basket on her lap and put a few light things in it, then sling a few grocery sacks over the handles of the wheelchair and fill them up. Awkward, but it gets the job done. I have a feeling that if we went during off times, and asked for assistance, they might provide someone to walk a cart around for us.

Decatur Square
Pretty good. We've gone on off days, but there isn't any place we would go in to, so it is a little pointless.

Dekalb Library in Decatur
Two years ago, we went a few times, and perused the Large Print section. A library is a familiar place for Mom, and we see a wide variety of people. People in libraries are generally nice, friendly people, so when Mom says hello to everyone, most people answer back.


Neighborhood Festivals
Very mixed results. We went to a festival in Linear park, which Mom initially enjoyed. Drop off and pick up were a very big pain. The walkways are very narrow, especially where the booths are. Mom enjoyed seeing people, but I did feel like we garnered a surprising amount of attention. Not necessarily good attention. Also, with narrow walkways, people basically had to part to let us through. Later, Mom asked me why everyone stares at her, which broke my heart. Honestly, I don't know the answer to that except that I guess people aren't used to seeing frail 90-year olds. The experience scared me off and we haven't tried any other events like that.

Christmas Lights at Atlanta Botanical Gardens
It was cold, but Mom was game, so we bundled up. She is a tough critic though, and seemed disappointed with the exhibit.


Since starting this post, my mother has become more frail, and the dementia has advanced. Now our outings are very rare, and if she does have the energy to go out, we just drive around for a bit. I do hope that the information is helpful to someone though.