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Holiday Gift Ideas for the Older Adult on Your List

Holiday gift-giving can be a challenge but it’s often even more so when you’re looking for a gift for a beloved older adult. Whether you’re in search of the perfect gift for a parent, grandparent, or another friend, it’s tough to buy something for a person who seemingly has everything or, more commonly, insists they don’t need anything.

Most older adults will tell you they don’t need more stuff. Stuff is clutter, clutter makes life more complicated and complications are stressful. So don’t give gifts that are meant to sit on shelves, bookcases and tabletops. Instead, consider these gift ideas that can make their life easier, fun and meaningful.

Give Technology

Don’t assume that anyone is “too old” for technology, especially when it can make daily living easier, safer and give them access to services than can enhance their lives.

How nice would it be for an older adult to have their own personal assistant? Smart home systems operate on voice command.  The online services accessed by these systems are limitless. Play music, read a book aloud, set appointments, keep track of grocery lists, receive medication reminders, have wake-up alarms, make a hands-free phone calls, order a ride-share service, find out if a store is open, listen to a weather report and more. These intelligent home systems can be paired with other “smart” peripheral devices such as electrical plugs, light socket extensions and switches to operate home functions by voice command.

Digital tracking tags can easily locate lost keys, wallet, purse, phone, bag or anything else attached to these digital tags. Connected via blue tooth, misplaced items can simply be called through a phone and the attached tags will ring to be located in seconds. 

A fitness watch is more than a fancy pedometer. Some brand models can serve as a personal emergency alert, medication schedule keeper and daily routine reminder. A fitness watch may also feature pulse and body temperature monitors. Emails, text messages and more can be received by some models.

Give Experiences

No one is ever too old to dream! Listen to your loved one; they may express a desire to see a special place, a long-time friend or family mem­bers. Learn what they long for and makes them happy and then help­ to make their dream come true.

Arrange for a trip to a local place of interest such as a theater or concert performance. Or, purchase an annual membership in the Historical Society, Arboretum or area museums where their membership benefits include free or discounted visits.  Membership can include invitations to special events and gives one the opportunity to be part of a community of people with shared interests.  

Pampering is always a good gift option for men and women alike. Gift cards for a high quality spa where they can schedule a massage, mani-pedi and other personal luxuries can be a treat. These high-touch services have been shown to have a therapeutic benefit for older adults.

Give yourself and your family

The most precious gift of all is your time and attention; finding ways to celebrate together can be very meaningful. Gifts can honor the legacy of an older adult’s life and tell them how they’ve made a difference in yours. Creating and fulfilling such gifts encourage you to spend time as a family, making new memories and talking about old ones.

Craft a coupon book of your time and talents to be redeemed throughout the weeks and months ahead. Coupons can be good for an endless variety of tasks and activities. Look around at what they might want or need, if only they had a little help, such as cleaning out a storage closet, writing a letter, making a favorite pie or taking an outing together. You can customize the coupon choices to suit your loved one’s interests as well as your time and talent capacity. 

Has the older adult recently moved from a home you once shared as a family?  Invite family members to write brief stories about good things that happened at the “old place.” Stories may be funny, poignant, recall the event everyone talks about or reveal the one thing no one ever knew until now.  Gather these stories into a binder, adding old photos of life at the house. Such a collection documents how the home shaped who you are as a family and what happened there that will not be forgotten. Your loved one can read it whenever they feel homesick, or just need a good laugh. 

Create a wall calendar that depicts a year in the life of your family in monthly installments or a “friendship calendar” with pictures of them and their friends.  Local printing and office supply stores offer templates and production services to create a single or small-run order.

There are many resources online to create a personalized digital or print photo album recalling a family trip, meaningful family experiences or pictures of past holidays.  It is a great way to reflect and curate your shared memories in a lasting form.

Give with meaning

A holiday gift is more than just a thing in a box. It symbolizes and reflects the special relationship between the giver and receiver. When we exchange gifts, we share in mutual gratitude, respect and affection for one another. May you thoughtfully choose the gifts you give and may your holidays be delightful and full of joy with the people you love.

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