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Gifts for the Elderly: A List of Suggestions

Updated on July 23, 2018
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I've worked with the elderly and people with special needs for 20+ years. I have an awareness of some of the things that might help them.

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Buying Gifts for the Elderly

Buying a gift for an elderly loved one is really no different than buying a gift for anyone else. You merely need to think about what it is they enjoy or need and that will guide your decision. What constitutes a good gift for anyone will vary because each individual is different.

Some people over the age of 75 will still be very active and may even travel, they may bicycle, walk, and care for their own home. Others beyond this age may have more limitations. Clearly, a pair of plane tickets to Paris may delight some elderly individuals but be completely useless to another. A new, bright shiny magnifying glass to help grandma do her crossword puzzles may be perfect for one person, while offensive to another!

The gift ideas on this page cross both ends of the spectrum and are offered to help stimulate your thinking when it comes time to buy gifts for elderly people.

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The Stuff Money Can't Buy

For many elderly individuals, separation from family, loss of friends, and so forth can result in feelings of loneliness. One of the most universally appreciated gifts is that of your time. Taking a day to visit, perhaps take them out, or just spend the time really talking, reminiscing, laughing, and so forth is often very precious.

One of the things we always enjoyed doing with my mother was cooking. Now at age 83 and living alone, she seldom cooks. Spending time in her kitchen choosing recipes and preparing them is a special time for all of us. The time together eating and talking is something I know she treasures.

With elderly individuals who live alone or with just a spouse, the amount of cooking that goes on is greatly reduced. They often don't make special treats like cookies and so forth. Often we will mix up batches of favorite cookies and bring them in small containers for them to freeze. Then, they can thaw them, bake, and enjoy them in small quantities over the coming weeks.

I also had a great-grandmother who loved birds. On her 96th birthday, we drove her to a sanctuary and we spent time observing the birds.

One of the best gifts for the elderly then is to think through the things they've always enjoyed, and probably still do, and spend unhurried time with them engaged in such activities.

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Staying Connected

For families that live nearby, staying connected is as easy as stopping by on any given day. But for many of us, distance makes this difficult. Many of the more modern means that allow the rest of us to stay connected can be confusing or anxiety provoking for some elderly individuals if they aren't the type of individuals to have kept up on technology.

Therefore, other great gifts for the elderly might be things which would allow them to be better connected to you, the people they love. Of course, whatever you choose may require you to set up and teach them about how to use it.

One item that is simple and requires no technical skills are wireless photo frames. Many of these allow you to set up an e-mail address and then you can choose to have photos show up immediately on the screen when you send them to that address. Other give the option of syncing with an Instagram or Facebook account so that your photos immediately show up on their photo frame. Then grandma or grandpa don't have to do a thing to enjoy your latest photos of the kids or your vacation. You can even have older photos digitized and load them on the frame as well.

There are of course numerous technological devices and apps that can help seniors stay connected. The gift of a tablet or smartphone (esp with a webcam or front facing camera) where they can interact on Facebook, Skype, etc. is a great way to stay in touch and feel connected to their community. Apps like Words With Friends can be great ones to download to allow some basic gameplay between friends or loved ones.

If your older loved one is timid about technology there are simplified devices designed with them in mind. Telekin computers are good for Skyping, emailing, reading the news, and so forth and they are very simple to use. The Claris Companion is a tablet type device that offers connectivity and way to monitor an elderly loved one to assure they are safe.

Set up, a lesson, and some practice can assure that new app or device is enjoyed.

Goodies

Many older people still enjoy the goodies they always loved. Therefore gift baskets with favorite things are a good idea. You can even locate services that will deliver a different item each month. This can be chocolates, cheeses, wines, coffees, or something else. Even flowers are sometimes a great idea. By having a flower of the month, the gift continues to brighten their day throughout the year.

Some women continue to enjoy new perfumes, bath items, and so forth. These are easy to find of course even if you simply stuff a pretty basket with trial size items.

For variety, an entire family can opt to create a more personalized gift basket. After purchasing a suitable basket, each family member can find one item to add. Some family members may choose to add a small photo frame, some bath gel, scented soaps, and similar items for women or perhaps aftershave, clippers, and so forth for men.

Healthy Lifestyles

Some seniors are more active or health conscious. They may want a juicer to make healthy drinks, a walking or hiking stick, a new bicycle seat, a bicycle built for two, new golf shoes, or just about anything else you can think of that suits their activity of choice.

For a senior who has shown less initiative, perhaps a membership at a fitness center and a few accompanied visits might break down any reservations they have about going. Some centers do offer classes specifically for seniors. (For the elderly, be sure any new level of activity is ok with a physician)

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Making and Perserving Memories

Making personalized memory books can make a great gift for the elderly. Going through them and reliving the best times are part of the fun. In some instances, you may even want to construct the book together. Sorting through the items, telling stories, and so forth as you go.

Of course, this can also be done as a display item for the wall rather than a book.

For other seniors who are more technologically savvy, starting a web page, blog or simply being introduced to photo sharing sites (i.e. Photobucket, Shutterfly, Dropbox, ThisLife) may be the thing that gets them preserving their memories and sharing with you. The first step is always the hardest, so being there to get them started is what some loved ones need.

Experiences

Just because someone reaches a particular age, doesn't mean they don't enjoy new experiences.

When she turned 78, my mother-in-law received a stay in a nearby bed and breakfast with her husband. They really enjoyed the luxury of the spa tub, being served a special breakfast, and going out for dinner. They took a drive around the community, enjoyed a short museum visit, shopped some, and spent an afternoon reading. It was perfect for them.

At age 79, she received plane tickets and hotel accommodations in Las Vegas for a few nights from one of her daughters. They weren't high rollers, but this was still a memorable trip for them.

The Things They Will Use

Some of the best gifts for elderly individuals can be items they really need. It just depends on their situation.

A simple example is a nice robe, slippers, pajamas and so forth. My mother loves warm cotton jammies, my mother-in-law, on the other hand, likes sexier lingerie. Just take personal taste into account!

Some might like a heated blanket or perhaps a weighted blanket to provide a more comfortable nights sleep.

Some older people might benefit from a special amplified phone to help them communicate better on the phone. Maybe a long-handled brush or sponge for hard to reach areas, pretty new rugs that have a non-skid surface that can help prevent falls or any number of items to assure they're safe and can be as independent as possible. Grab bars in the bathroom, hand held shower heads, and so forth may be needed but not something they've purchased. Magnified mirrors can also be really useful in the bathroom as well for applying makeup, tweezing, shaving, and so forth.

Alarms clocks with a large display or those that project the time onto the wall or ceiling can be easier to see and some will even plug into a lamp, causing it to flash if audible alarms don't work as well. There are of course all kinds of adaptive aids for those with poor hearing.

If they travel by car, do they have AAA to provide assistance if needed? A subscription to OnStar or similar service? A simple GPS device so they don't struggle with hard to read maps? Think about what they do or enjoy and you may identify something that will make it easier, safer, or even more enjoyable.

Perhaps you have an elderly family member who no longer drives but is able with some help from outside to live in their own home. You might consider paying for a driving service to allow them to get where they need to go. You can find services like SilverRide, HelpAtYourDoor, or a similar service. These are targeted specifically for the elderly.

Life Assistant Technologies Reminder Rosie Talking Alarm Clock with Personalized Voice Reminders
Life Assistant Technologies Reminder Rosie Talking Alarm Clock with Personalized Voice Reminders

This talking alarm clock was a gift I gave to my elderly mother one year. She had a liquid medication she needed to take. It wouldn't work in her electronic pill dispenser of course and she really couldn't handle technology. With this clock I was able to record a reminder for twice a day for her to take the medication. Thanks to it, she was able to reliably take the medication.

 

A Look Back

Some older individuals love to reminisce. Some enjoy it more than others, but almost everyone likes reminders of things which made up happy times.

Luckily there are a number of publications available that can give them a fresh walk down memory lane. Reminisce is just one of the possibilities; it takes a look back at the 20's, 30's, 40's and 50's. Publications like these can make great gifts for the elderly.

If your loved one enjoys music, there are many options for oldies collections from any era. Of course, classic movies can also be a great gift as well. If they really love movies then a subscription to Netflix will allow them to get old classics and even newer movies delivered directly to their door or streamed to their television.

Hobbies

Many older individuals still enjoy hobbies. They may be the ones they've always loved but have more difficulty enjoying. For instance, a crossword puzzle worker may have reduced vision. Getting a collection in large print is one option, or giving a large full page magnifier may help. If their dexterity is poor then working such puzzles on the computer may prove easier with the keyboard, or perhaps by using speech to text programs.

Jigsaw puzzles, adult coloring books, and similar items may keep some happy as well. If beneficial, there are also jumbo-sized playing cards available.

Gardening is another example of an activity that many elderly individuals still enjoy. Gift ideas for the elderly might include kneeling benches or knee pads, items with longer handles that don't require as much stooping and so forth. Of course, a basket of seeds, bulbs, and so forth can also be great.

If your elderly loved one is on a quest to see the world while they still can, then any number of items may come to mind. Binoculars, travel guides, electronic translators, the right apps for their phone, a portable digital camera or camcorder, and so forth are just a few of the many the options.

For those still with a youthful attitude but less ability to get out and about, an online course might be just right. Anything from painting to history is available.

© 2010 Christine Mulberry

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    • Rpenafiel profile image

      Rpenafiel 

      7 years ago from United States

      Great hub! The ideas you mentioned here are very practical. You’ve mentioned cell phone as a helpful device to keep the elderly connected with their families. I agree to this and since there are now cell phones for seniors that are available in the market, looking for one that can be very convenient for them to use will be easy. The Just5 cell phone for instance offers features that can be very useful to them.

    • profile image

      joyce.blue 

      7 years ago

      Great ideas and set of suggestions. It's a bit hard to know what to give to seniors these days but this really made me have some great ideas on what to give.

    • PaperNotes profile image

      PaperNotes 

      8 years ago

      Great ideas. I used to buy my grandmother some food supplements and vitamins.

    • Pinkchic18 profile image

      Sarah Carlsley 

      8 years ago from Minnesota

      Awesome post about gift ideas, I had to feature it on my hub about Grandparent's day because it fit right in!! Thanks for the great post, keep up the good work :)

    • janices7 profile image

      Janice S 

      8 years ago

      Great list of ideas...I always have such a hard time coming up with things to get our grandparents. Visiting or going out to lunch with them is probably the most appreciated gift, but it is hard when they live out of state.

    • Sandyspider profile image

      Sandy Mertens 

      8 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

      Great hub on gifts for the elderly.

    • valery elias profile image

      valery elias 

      8 years ago

      Great ideas for the elderly and gifts. Time is the best.

    • Sally's Trove profile image

      Sherri 

      8 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

      My mother has everything she needs when it comes to creature comforts, and supplies and outlets for her interests. What she values the most is the time she spends with others.

      I was quite struck by reading your Hub today. It follows as an affirmation of the time spent with my mother yesterday. My mother and I do not see each other often, because we live far apart. But yesterday, we spent the day together, doing some things, doing nothing, talking, driving around, sharing a meal...

      She's called me twice since then to express her joy for the day we spent together.

      The greatest gift for the elderly is your loving time. And that's the greatest gift for anyone else, too. It's a gift you give to yourself.

    • Kay Creates profile image

      Kay Creates 

      8 years ago from Ohio

      These are great suggestions.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      8 years ago from England

      Hi, this was a fantastic idea. I always remember when my mum and dad were still with me, I could never think of the right things to buy them. You have some great ideas here. and you totally surprised me when you said about the picture frames that you can e-mail. I had never heard of them. I knew that you can get the electronic ones that change pictures, but not about the e-mail bit. rated up definetly. I could have done with this a few years ago. thanks nell

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