Although we may love those elderly folks on our Christmas list, sometimes they can be very difficult to buy for. I used to work with the elderly, and I often heard about some of the gifts they received. Furthermore, my both my husband’s parents and my own mother are getting up there in years, and I am, of course, in charge of buying both sets of gifts. I think I have gotten fairly good at it, and I pass my wisdom on to you.
What these people really want is for you to spend time with them. You ask, “How do I wrap that?” Well, if you live nearby, perhaps you can wrap up a gift certificate to a favorite restaurant with a note promising to take the person out to lunch. Tickets to a play are also very nice. Our own local community theater is inundated with the elderly when it comes to the Sunday matinee performances, so don’t think folks at this age don’t like theater anymore. If you live far away, the best gift you can give is a visit. If you can’t do it for Christmas, then why not make plans to visit after Christmas and wrap up a copy of the itinerary? My husband and I did that for his parents last year, and his 85 year old mother was thrilled! His father was also pleased, of course, but mothers are mothers.
Don’t buy knick knacks unless you’re certain the person wants them. Most elderly people are either trying to clean out their homes or are the type who already has too much junk. In our case it is the former, not the latter. My in-laws, for a while, seemed to be mailing us their home one piece at a time! My mother likes a minimalist approach to her home because she doesn’t want “dust catchers”; however, she does like anything having to do with birds. Thus, the only knick knack I would get for any of these folks is maybe a bird plate for my mother.
Plants are usually not good gifts for the elderly because they have to take care of them. Flowers are much better. If you can afford it, consider one of those flowers of the month club. That way the person gets a fresh arrangement each month. There are 6 and 3 month plans too for people who don’t want to buy the 12 month plan. There are also bulb of the month clubs where the bulbs come pre-planted in little pots and the person gets the thrill of watching them grow. They can throw it away when the flowers are finished, or plant it for the next year if they are spry enough. (My own grandmother mowed her own grass to age 90, so not all elderly people are decrepit). An amaryllis is another nice gift because of the fun of watching it grow. These bulb gifts give a nice compromise between a plant and a fresh flower arrangement. They can be temporary, like flowers, except that they last longer, and they also go through interesting changes. That makes them an ideal gift for a bedridden person.
Another good gift is anything that makes the person’s life easier. For example, One Touch makes a fantastic jar opener specifically designed for the elderly. In fact, One Touch has several such products. You could also purchase the hardware necessary to make some of the overhead cabinets “pull-down” which eliminates the need for reaching or getting on step stools, or make some of the lower cabinets “pull-outs” which eliminates bending. Rubberized mats for the front or back steps can be helpful to keep the elderly person from falling. These mats have excellent adhesive to keep them in place, and they are decorative as well as useful. Keeping an elderly person from falling should always be one of the top priorities.
Sometimes books on tape can be nice, but not always. I thought they’d be nice for my mother-in-law, but I was wrong. My father-in-law likes music, but he said he doesn’t listen much anymore because that kind of recorded sound excludes his wife. Although she has a good quality hearing aid, there is still distortion, and turning up the sound will not solve the problem. Consequently, I can not recommend books on tape for anyone with hearing loss even if they do have a hearing aid. However, if you do decide to give a book on tape, why not read something yourself? I suspect the person will like that much better than anything from a stranger, even if it is some famous person.
Food can be an excellent gift for an elderly person. My in-laws have been very happy with the fruit baskets we have sent them. We think it is a dull gift, but they like it, and isn’t that what matters?
My mother-in-law has been very happy with the bed jacket we sent her a couple of years ago, and she apparently wears it quite often. Shawls and throws can be good gifts if you’re certain the person doesn’t already have a ton of these in their closet.
I suspect most elderly people get a lot of robes, gowns, and slippers as gifts. If you’re going to give something like this, give something special. How about a yukata for an elderly man? Or a kimono for an elderly woman? Or at least something with an unusual print. Not all elderly women want pink or blue.
My mother and mother-in-law have liked the eyeglass holders I have beaded for them. Just because a woman is older doesn’t mean she doesn’t like pretty things, and the eyeglass holder is so useful too. As for the men, just because a man is older doesn’t mean he isn’t a man. He still has to shave, so he might like some after shave, especially if you tell him it’s the newest sexy scent! Then of course, you can look at the hobbies or interests of the individual person and work from there.
Remember, just because these people are older doesn’t mean they aren’t people. They have things they want, it’s just that those things aren’t usually as frivolous as the rest of us because they’ve pretty much met all of those needs. But usually there is still something out there to make them smile. You just have to find it.