Gift Guide for Seniors: Give the Gifts of Love, Time, And … These

Whether you quote St. Francis of Assisi that “it is in giving that we receive” or French tragedian Pierre Corneille that “the manner of giving is worth more than the gift,” the word giving appears in both of those famous quotes — and so many more. Gift giving is what everyone does this time of year – whether celebrating Hanukkah and Christmas or simply showing appreciation for loved ones while reflecting on a year’s end.

So, what do you give your senior loved one who has everything? Or desires nothing? With not so many shopping days left until the holidays wrap up, Sonida Senior Living has compiled a gift guide to spur some ideas on what to buy grandma, grandpa or any loved one who resides in our Independent Living, Assisted Living and Memory Care communities around the United States. We invite you to wrap your mind around these ideas not just for this season but for any time of year:

A genealogy test

Chances are, there are gems of information about your family hidden right in plain sight — within your seniors’ DNA. With easy-to-use tests on the market and companies such as Ancestry23andMeMyHeritage and LivingDNA, your elderly loved one will be able to explore genetic similarities and differences between you and relatives, get a look at a diverse group of people who have similar DNA, trace parts of their ancestry from 1,000 years ago and learn how their DNA could influence traits such as hair loss and heath. A simple cheek swab or saliva is all you need, so it’s painless and could offer great insight for the whole family.

Tip: Many of these companies may offer holiday specials. While it may take 6 to 8 weeks for the processing time, you can purchase a kit now in time to get it under the tree, then go through the process of swabbing or spitting together as a family.

A book of memories

Yes, many seniors have photos of their kids, grandkids and spouses in picture frames around their apartments. But, after a while, those frames can become cluttered and collect dust. Gather up all those photos — and so many more that may not be hanging on a wall or framed in a glass enclosure because they are on a cell phone  — and have one of the many online services such as Picaboo, Shutterfly, SimplePrints and Chatbooks create a book of memories that will live forever. These books could especially be meaningful for senior loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease because they will help with stimulating happy memories. Some of these services can also create a photo calendar so that every month, a new photo will have your senior smiling and bragging.

Tip: Customize the photo book with your grandparents’ names or include a handwritten note inside to show just how much you care.

A day out on the town

While many of our senior living communities offer free transportation to area stores and restaurants so your loved one can explore their cities with their friends and neighbors, your grandmother or grandfather would likely appreciate it more if you took her or him out to lunch or dinner at a favorite restaurant and then include a movie or live performance in the mix. This gift of time, whether a one-time thing around the holidays or a regular monthly outing, could be so precious and create new memories that can be captured in pictures that can then be compiled for future memory books.

Tip: Check Groupon regularly to see what deals it offers on things to do in your area.

A group of coupons

Have you noticed that your senior loved enjoys it when you bring them a meal or help organize their clothes in a closet or chest of drawers? Maybe they appreciate a helping hand when it comes to sifting through junk mail or moving furniture around to bring new life to their apartment. Take notice of some of these little tasks that could have big meaning for your elderly parent and compile a book where they can redeem coupons to have these chores completed. By putting expiration dates on some of these, it could encourage you to make time for visiting while also inspiring them to regularly take care of a chore that would have to be done anyway and that they might feel guilty about asking you to do. The bonus for both of you is that you get to spend quality time together talking, laughing and sharing stories.

Tip: Kids can create coupon books with assorted colors of construction paper — a perfect holiday craft — and offer their grandparents extra hugs and kisses or the opportunity to jump in on a selfie that could then be used in a future photo book.

A compilation of music

While mix tapes or CDs may sound cheesy to you, the power of music can be especially meaningful for a senior. Remember the song playing on the radio when you had your first date? Catch yourself humming the tune to one of your favorite old TV shows? Your elderly loved one definitely has tunes that spark memories and smiles just like they do for you. Sure, you could buy them a subscription to Sirius XM and a device where they can sing along to songs on the Beatles Channel or ‘50s on 5 in their apartment, but why not instead gather up their old albums and tapes that are in storage and turn them into CDs or digital files that they can play on an inexpensive electronic device? Crosley offers record players that have a vintage look but feature CD players and tape decks.

Tip: Use music as a way to introduce your senior to new technologies. It can help cut down on the frustrations of learning how to use an electronic device because the end product will be music to their ears.

A hobby basket

So many of our communities offer arts and crafts events on a regular basis. If your senior gets pleasure out of attending these sessions, put together a basket of supplies that they can bring and show off. In general, the basket could include a glue gun, various kinds of scissors, glue sticks, tape, markers, color pencils and construction paper. If your grandparent loves bingo, it might be thoughtful to create a basket or bag that not only includes distinct color daubers or chips but also features a lucky charm such as keychain and a specialty T-shirt.  

Tip: Ask the activities director at your loved one’s community about supplies they regularly use for group events so you can purchase unique items that will help your senior stand out and be the envy of the room.

A “of the month club” subscription

It’s the present that keeps on giving long after the holiday season. A monthly subscription for coffee, flowers, wine, cheese or beer could end up costing you less than buying a single big-ticket item that will take up precious space in your loved one’s apartment. Whether for three, six, nine or 12 months, your parents, grandparents or elderly loved ones can look forward to a special delivery that they can enjoy by themselves or share with their friends.

Tip: Provide your loved one with a 2019 calendar (maybe one with family photos created by you) with the dates circled of when they are expected to receive their shipment.

No matter how big or small a gift is that you give to your senior loved one, it’s important to remember the true meaning of the holiday season: family togetherness. Savor that gift for as long as you have it.

***This blog post, originally published on Dec. 8, 2017, has been updated and edited.

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