Many of us find it challenging to come up with the perfect gift for our elderly loved ones - especially during the holiday season. While our children are not bashful about giving us a Christmas list, our elders are more likely to say they "don’t need anything." Many have downsized their living space or may now be in a nursing home or assisted living facility, which throws the door wide open for practicality. To help make your shopping this year a little easier, we have taken these things into consideration and created this gift-giving guide for you.
But first, let us say that beyond any doubt, the gift of your time can be the best gift choice of all. Stopping in for a brief visit, bringing a small gift such as a magazine or a plate of cookies is inexpensive and often the most valued. Is your loved one in a nursing home or assisted living facility? Try a bulletin board to place pictures and cards, a lap top desk, or stationary and writing supplies. See! There are still plenty of ideas for them too.
“The excellence of a gift lies in its appropriateness rather than in its value.”
-Charles Dudley Warner
Give the Gift of Sound
- Phone Amplifiers- amp up the sound for the hard of hearing with a phone amplifier. Some amplifiers come with a strobe flashing light as well that will catch their attention if the sound does not.
- TV Amplifiers - increases the volume of the TV; some systems may be wireless and/ or used with other devices. The headsets are great for someone in a community living environment, as they do not disturb others; while a sound box may be better for other situations. Often it is not just the volume but also clarity and some of these devices can enhance regular sound and voices as well.
- Talking clocks - a variety of styles where you can program them to announce the time at certain intervals or can be heard at the touch of a button. Some are digital and some look like old fashioned alarm clocks.
Give the Gift of Sight
- Talking clocks and watches - announces the time as programmed, making it easier for people who are blind or have poor vision. The watches can audibly state the time, date, day of the week, month, and year at the touch of a button.
- Large Digital Clocks - the digital display of the numbers on these clocks come in a wide variety of sizes, some advertise they can be seen as far away as 200 feet.
- Digital/Talking Scales - can be purchased with large digital display and / or voice read out.
- Floor Magnifier Lamp - large illuminated lens not only magnifies objects but also provides light that eases the strain on the eyes. Not your standard magnifying glass any more- making reading and doing crafts fun again. These range from stand models to handheld devices that are now electronic and have even higher magnifying power.
- Large Button Phone - many of these phones not only comes with buttons that make hitting the right buttons easier but they can come with amplifying features too.
- Photo Phone - a visual picture of loved ones instead of a small number may make it easier to use the phone. Even those with dementia issues may be able to easily make calls.
- Large Print Calendar - these large print calendars may help maintain some independence a little longer and can be personalized with photos of friends and loved ones. Don’t forget to attach a pen to check off the days gone by.
- Large Button Remote Control - Many elderly have trouble seeing the small buttons on standard remote controls. A large button universal remote control may be exactly what they need.
- Lighted Alert Systems for Doorbells and Smoke Alarms - a bright flashing light lets the hard of hearing know that someone is at the door or that there is an immediate danger.
Give the Gift of Mobility
Grabber for picking things up or reaching
Large zipper pulls
Pull Tab Opener- for cans with tabs
Button hook device
Elastic Shoe laces- converts ties shoes to slip on
- Wheel chair clips and organizers - clips or hangs on the side of the chair allowing storage and easy reach for frequently used items for the wheel chair bound.
- Bed Assist Rail - provides assistance for getting in and out of bed and helps prevent falls.
- Fingerprint Keyless/ Keypad Door Lock - provides keyless entry by just touching the fingerprint pad or keying in a code on a keypad making it much easier for those arthritic hands. And the bonus - no more searching for keys.
- Car Swivel Seats - these swivel seats allow easier access for both driver and/or passengers.
- Transportation Service - Contact a local bus or taxi service to see if they offer gift certificates. Or create your own certificate and offer your personal service.
- Electronic Key Finder / Large Handle Key Turner - misplacing keys often and arthritic hands make these a good choice.
Give the Gift of Safety
- Pathway Lighting - whether it be for the inside or outside, light pathways, halls, and stairs for safety. There are a lot of options here. You can use simple night-lights that automatically turn on when it begins to get dark or can be switched on and off as you wish. There are also electronic, solar and battery powered devices that will do the job and help prevent falls. Or you might want to try lighted slippers.
- First Aid Kit - having an adequately stocked first aid kit not only helps with the organization of items when they are needed but when also stocked with first aid instructions can help save a life. First aid kits can be elaborate or very inexpensive. You may choose to create your own. For instructions and content to make your own see our First Aid for Elderly Article.
- Finger Protector - This is a very simple inexpensive guard that helps prevent cuts to the fingers when using a knife.
- Oven Rack Guards - protects skin against accidental burns and injury when reaching into a hot oven.
- Lighted Smoke Detector - not only do smoke detectors come with brightly flashing lights for the audible impaired but they help to illuminate an escape route. These can be battery operated or hard wired.
- Medication Reminder and Check In Services - the forgetful nature of getting older often creates a medication issue for elderly. Helping to get it right can be a simple pill box that you can use to set up their pills daily or weekly, an automatic dispensing or reminder machine, to medication and check in reminder calls.
- Bath Lift / Chair - bath lifts are helpful in lowering and raising an elderly person with mobility issues or a disabled person in and out of the bathtub. Bath lifts are also helpful to a caregiver, preventing back injury.
- Bath Safety Grab Rails - You can permanently mount a bar to the tub and shower area or use the suction based for easy removal. There are also bars that attach to the tub side that give a steady hand getting in and out of the tub.
- Non Slip Bath Mat - prevents slips and falls in the shower or tub.
- Non Slip Shoe Covers - cleat like device that slips over the shoe to provide traction in the snow and ice.
Give the Gift of Warmth
- Blanket or Throw - being cold is such a common problem with elderly people and a customized blanket or throw cover will keep them warm and comforted. You can make a handmade quit like blanket or order one with the grandchildren’s picture on it from various places such as Shutterfly or Wal-Mart.
- Velcro Slippers - be sure to get the hard sole, non-slip type of slippers. They also come in extra wide width and are very comfortable for swollen and arthritic feet. While these are warm slippers you may want to allow some extra room for socks.
- Fingerless Gloves - great for those who want mobility and warmth for their hands.
- Hand Muff - in keeping the extremities warm, these come in all shapes and sizes to meet the personality. Some brands have features and textures for twiddling and fiddling. It has been found that these features often help relax dementia patients. These are nice when just sitting around or watching TV.
- Neck Warmer - depending on the need to keep the neck warm this can be a simple scarf type piece of clothing that comes in various materials or a microwaveable comfort wrap.
- “Toasty Feet”- Toasty Feet Insoles placed inside the shoe keep feet warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
- “Bionic Driving Gloves”- specially designed for grandma and grandpa allowing movement and function while keeping hands toasty warm. These can be worn for warmth or orthopedic issues.
- Heated Mattress Pad - great for getting the bed nice and warm before you crawl in.
- One Cup Coffee Maker - there is many versions of these on the market and great for the coffee drinker who lives alone.
- Foot bath - the elderly have many foot problems and a warm footbath can do a lot to sooth those tired aching feet.
Give the Gift of Keeping Active
- Jigsaw Puzzles - are never out of date. This simple pastime comes in such a variety, even taking into account the eyes and arthritis with large pieces and you can select a picture that is of interest to the recipient. Have a special family photo turned into a puzzle. They are also great for the social settings.
- Magazine and Books / Audible - a subscription to a magazine that is centered around their hobbies or interest could be a great pastime. Eyes not what they used to be? Subscribe to an audio book rental service like Audible.com or these can be purchased at most bookstores. Large print versions are often available. Some favorite magazines for older people are often the inspirational magazines such as Guidepost. Readers Digest is another favorite and these both come in large print.
- Games Books - game books are inexpensive and are helpful in retaining cognitive function. Word search and crossword books are a favorite pastime. Sudoku is becoming almost as popular. If variety is their spice of life, you can get mixed puzzle books too. You can get these in large print and theme related versions. See a mix of games and ideas here.
- “Power Shovel” - this would be a great alternative for the senior who wants to remain independent and do their own snow shoveling but strength isn’t what it used to be.
- Exercise - if your loved one is still able to drive, a gift certificate to a local gym or YMCA is not only a great way to stay active but to socialize as well. Some facilities offer specific programming for the elderly. A lot of elderly love to swim and most YMCA’s have pool facilities. There are many pieces of equipment that can be purchased depending on their level of function. Just a simple stretch ban can have great health benefits.
- “Up Easy Power Seat”- give the gift of getting up easily with this electronic piece of equipment that fits most furniture.
Give the Gift From the Heart and Family
Memory Journal - this would be for the one who likes to write. Some of these journals come with memory-jogging questions about life and have sufficient space for them to write their answers. This is a beautiful way to pass down their stories and wisdom.
Mugs, Magnets, Key chains, Calendars with Photos of Friends and Family - these are cherished gifts for the person who does not get to visit with their family often. My parent’s favorite gift one year was a blanket with all of their great grandchildren on it.
Donation to Charity - give a monetary gift to their favorite charity in their name.
Cleaning Services - these can be from a professional service or you can create your own certificate and take up the mop and broom yourself.
Arrange Services- arrange for a neighborhood teenager to mow the lawn or shovel snow or set up a visiting helper service.
Family History Book - chronicle the life and family history of your loved one and present it in a book format. This will become a family heritage piece.
Bird Feeder - many elderly love to sit at the window and bird watch. Even if they are in a facility, they may be open to this idea. Don’t forget the bird seed!
Gift Certificate to a Salon or Barber Shop - everyone feels better after a little pampering.
“Printing Mailbox”- A great gift for an older person who does not use computers or texting and does not live close to family and friends. It is a printer that is plugged into the phone outlet and works without a computer. It prints e-mails and photos from pre-approved senders. While they cannot respond to these correspondence, they will at least feel like they are being thought of and not left out of the loop. There may be a monthly usage fee.
Give the Best Gift
Your Time! Many seniors already have more than what they need, so simply spending time with them could be the best choice of all. Just taking the time to sit and talk or reminisce would be greatly appreciated. You can also be inventive here. Some ideas to get you started:
Doing chores - laundry, grocery shopping, changing a light bulb, yard work
Transportation - take them to the store, doctor’s office, or pharmacy
Go for a Walk Together - cold weather keeping you from this one; go to the mall
Check Out a Sports or Community Event - this can be a professional game or show or one of your children’s events
Invite Them to Dinner - or take them out to breakfast, lunch, dinner or just coffee
Prepare Some Meals - either cooking extra or preparing special meals and freezing them would be appreciated
Take them Some Cookies - there are always cookies around at Christmas
Any way you choose to give the gift of time, you will brighten their lives!