Now is when many of us begin to work on our holiday gift list in earnest. It is not uncommon to struggle with what to give to older adults. It is not surprising that as one ages, the desire for more gifts of certain types does wane. Just how many cozy sweaters can one person wear?
Technology is a gift category that should to be viewed with some caution. For example, plenty of older adults are given laptop computers as a family member upgrades a home computer and passes it along. The problem is, unless a child or grandchild spends time setting up the computer and stopping over for a few tutorials, more often the computer is not used and becomes more an unwelcome burden. For seniors who have not used computers, learning this new skill can seem overwhelming.
That said, helping an older adult bridge this divide and gain access to the Internet is a wonderful gift. Whether you decide to buy a Kindle, Android or an iPad, consider exploring a new tablet computer with your loved one. Take advantage of introductory classes at the Apple store. There your loved one will meet other older adults, just like them, learning a new vocabulary and skill set. There are also many iPad apps that offer help with everyday tasks like managing medication.
There is a huge market of adaptive equipment for seniors. These can make simple tasks a bit easier and others can make your loved one safer in their home.
Magnifiers – For the senior who has hobbies that require close up work, large magnifiers can make sewing or fine woodworking easier to do and much, more enjoyable.
Walking sticks and canes – Beautiful hardwood, folding or adjustable canes are wonderful gifts for someone who likes to use a cane for stability. The Pathfinder Lighted Walking Cane is an offset handle cane with a Xenon lamp that lights up the path ahead.
Fitness accessories – Helping a loved one stay active and fit can be a source for may gift ideas. A simple step pedometer can track distance, walking speed and calories burned and motivate the user to walk a few more blocks. If your senior is not one to join a fitness facility, yoga or Tai Chi DVDs may be welcome gifts.
A good gift does not need to be a gadget. Consider some gifts of the homemade variety.
Food – Everyone has favorite foods. It could be a gourmet entrée, favorite cookie or old family recipe. Food is an ideal gift to give all through the year and not just at holiday time. Why not come up with a food of the month idea and vary the offerings from citrus fruit in winter, to fine chocolates and a periodic pot of their favorite soup or chili. Or, if your older adult enjoys cooking or baking but would love to have company in the kitchen, make an afternoon of it and learn a secret family recipe.
Make a calendar – It used to be very common for churches, local businesses and even employers to give out calendars. This is not as common today and seniors can come up short if they like to use a wall calendar. It is remarkably easy to make a themed calendar yourself and provide a practical gift that will make them think of you each time they use it. Mac users can make a calendar in iPhoto but numerous web-based services, like createphotocalendars.com make this an easy and inexpensive project for anyone.
Start a journal or oral history – So many stories are told at the holidays, yet few are written down to share with the entire family. For those older adults who do not use a computer, writing down family history in a journal can be quite enjoyable. Read an earlier article about how we help our residents gather family stories and preserve precious memories.
The gift of time – Not all gifts need to come in a box. Spending time with you might be the best gift of all for you loved one. Many older adults have many interests that they no longer indulge in for many reasons – they may no longer drive, have fewer companions, or have limited income. Make a list of places that your loved one may want to visit - museums, nature preserve, even their old neighborhood - and make a date.