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INTERESTING STUFF – 5 November 2016

Holiday Gift Ideas for Elders - 2016

I know, I know, this seems awfully early - it's not even Thanksgiving yet. For but years and years, I published this post during the first week of December but last year I got several requests to do it earlier. People said they want more time to think about, track down, order or make gifts. So here goes.

This year Hannukah begins on Christmas Eve, the evening of 24 December. I guess that means President Obama will need to interrupt his family Christmas to light the Washington, D.C. menorah. It happens that way sometimes with ancient calendars.

Because I've been gathering ideas through many seasons, the best ones don't change much over time and I'm repeating some you've read in the past including many you, dear readers, have suggested. But there are some new ones here too.

Even though I think these end-of-year holidays cry out for fun gifts over the practical, I am always concerned for elders with small, fixed incomes so items that seem too mundane to be classified as gifts can be more welcome that you might think. They free up money for food, clothing and medical needs.

One good idea is a basket – a big one – stuffed with a year's supply each of hand soap, bathroom tissue, Kleenex, sink and tub cleaner, batteries in several sizes, paper towels, trash bags, kitchen sponges, half a dozen new dish towels, etc.

If there is a cat or two, include a year's supply of kitty litter or for dogs, a similar amount of pickup bags. Anyone on a tight budget come to resent how much these necessities cost.

Mobility is an issue for some of us old folks. Some may have given up driving or can't walk as easily as they once did. So consider vouchers with Uber or the local taxi company.

Prepare a certificate for a certain number of trips with you doing the driving during the year to the supermarket and other shops your loved one likes. Throw in lunch or dinner when you do it and then help with toting everything into the house and storing it all.

Tickets to the local movie theater or maybe the local theater group with of course, the transportation vouchers to match. Better, include tickets for yourself and go together.

How about a promise of three or four dinners cooked at your loved one's home during the year. For people with mobility difficulties, having company on certain evenings is a wonderful event to look forward to especially when someone else is cooking and cleaning up.

A supply of home-cooked meals, individually wrapped and ready for the freezer.

If you are handy around the house, check to see what fixes are needed and commit to getting them done. Often there are little things that cost a fortune to hire a handyman, electrician, plumber, etc. so if you have the expertise it is a good thing for your elder.

Showing up regularly to do the laundry throughout the year can be a big help and it creates an opportunity for a regular visit and chat.

Getting and decorating a tree can be impossible for some elders. If you know that someone on your list would love to have a tree of his or her own, buy one and spend an evening helping to decorate it – or maybe put up some outdoor lights if that would be welcome.

Of course, you must help take it all down after the holidays.

Does someone you love need the lawn cut regularly? That's a good gift for spring and summer along with other gardening help in the season and washing windows after winter is done.

If someone who loves gardening has downsized and no longer has a yard, consider some indoor gardening – flowers for color or, perhaps, an herb kit for the kitchen. Another reader suggestion is bird seed and replacement bird feeders.

You get the idea. There are a lot of things in this category.

I a mixed on e-readers. It is popular with some elders and many libraries now have the technology to let members borrow e-books. On the other hand, many old people like “real” books made of paper.

If you do give an e-reader, certainly throw in a couple of books with it that you know will be enjoyed and do point out the hundreds of free books on most download sites. I think this is a sensational idea for readers who have downsized and don't have the room anymore for bookshelves.

For people who already have the e-reader hardware, a gift certificate to Amazon or other book download sites is a good thing.

For paper reading, you might consider a high-end magnifying glass. I realize it's low tech, but it is an enormous help with small print that, unlike on computers, cannot be enlarged. I have one next to the bed where I read a lot and another on my desk which frequently gets carried to the kitchen for the small print on food packages.

And batteries, lots and lots of batteries for all the things we have nowadays that need them.

One year, a reader mentioned night lights. Take a look around next time you visit and see if they may be needed. There are simple ones and playful, fantastical ones that are fun.

If an elder lives alone, consider a personal medical emergency service. Anyone, no matter how active and vital, can find themselves in need of emergency help with no telephone in reach.

A purchase of such an alert gizmo with the service contract paid for each year can be a good peace-of-mind gift. A large number of companies provide this service so you should check them out thoroughly and get recommendations before subscribing.

Also, installing grab bars in the bathroom is a good safety idea that is likely to be appreciated.

A couple of readers have mentioned a collection of greeting cards for a variety of occasions and don't forget the postage stamps to go with them. Help with writing notes and addressing cards is good for arthritic friends.

If you can afford it, you could hire a cleaning service for once a month or if that's too expensive, maybe one big cleaning event for spring.

If you are giving practical gifts or home-made certificates for trips to stores or the movies or taxi vouchers, be sure to include a token physical gift, something to unwrap. It doesn't need to be costly: a favorite candy, a pretty scarf, a bottle of wine, a box of special cookies.

This list, lengthy as it is, is only a starting point. Now it's time for your suggestions.:

What gifts have you been most pleased to receive?

Which ones you have given were successful choices?

And what have you given or received that was a mistake?


I love all things bath oriented, but do not like candles. My grandmother used to request disposable items. She entertained a lot so paper plates, napkins and such were appreciated. We elderly have so much stuff, that disposable is sensible and can be fun, too.

Too early, Ronni. But apparently I'm one of the few who refuse to consider Christmas before Thanksgiving. Some good ideas here, although I haven't nearly enough room to store a year's supply of toilet paper, etc. I confess that in the last two years or so I've resorted to gifts of cash. The idea would have horrified my mom, but my son, DIL, and grandkids love the flexibility it gives them to get (or help get) exactly what they want.

I'd like the gift of time.

If doing laundry for a person (or providing laundry supplies) please assure that the products conform to the person's peculiarities. As I've aged, I've become less and less tolerant of the perfumes included in most clothes washing/drying products. (This applies, in my case, to other household products as well - such as candles - and I cannot tolerate, at all, products made to supposedly rid one's home of odors!!!) I must stick with unscented products.

Best gift was a certificate my husband gave me to pick out binoculars of my choice - accompanied by "homemade" binoculars that featured two toilet paper roll cores. The binoculars that I chose may, eventually, be disposed of (not likely, but possible); however, the homemade binoculars will be with me until I die!

I think your thoughtful list is excellent. I especially liked the home repair suggestion. When you own your own home the need for small repairs happen often and if you are on a budget some wait for months before someone comes along to fix them.

One gift I would love to have was missing from the list. I wish someone would take me for a long drive. Being somewhat housebound, I miss seeing the great outdoors. If the drive included lunch that would be the icing on the cake. In some parts of the country it's too cold and icy to drive at holiday time, so a gift certificate of a promise to see the spring flowers would fill the bill.

A gift that I rarely used was a box of greeting cards. I still have most of them and will probably never use them. First of all, I rarely send a greeting card and when I do I like to buy a more personal one that fits the recipient rather than the generic card in the box.

The same goes for gift baskets. While quite nice, they need to be tailored to the recipient. If you know their preference in food give their favorite cheese and fruit with a bottle of wine if they enjoy wine. Try to find out what they consider a luxury so it's special. The same goes for a basket of cleaning supplies, soaps, or bath items. Ask a close relative if possible, what brands they use or what they might like.

I had bath oils, lotions, etc. cluttering up my storage space unopened because someone thought I would like them. I finally put most of them in my give away box because I hoped they would be welcome by someone else.

For my Dad's birthday I used to take him to a premium grocery and fill it with favorites he wouldn't buy for himself like a big jar of petite oysters, snack treats, salmon or whatever. He loved the process of repackaging in small quantities to put in his freezer. And while I stayed with him a few days, we also ate some of it fresh. He'd always object, but the gleam in his eyes said otherwise. At Christmas I would try to send something he wouldn't buy for himself but that would be used and not contribute to longterm clutter.

My mother loved purses so I could buy a new purse with personal items tucked inside to discover. And at the end in a care center, she would look through each pocket and zipper as if it was new. My heart ached and soared at the same time.

While they were still more active, I would buy a favorite magazine subscription. I like the idea of buying a subscription or service they wouldn't have bought for themselves.

What a great list! I would suggest several magnifiers to distribute at points of use, for the kitchen, desk, bathroom (med labels?). bedroom. This has been very handy for me. Also, several pairs of scissors, large and small, to keep wherever needed, again, kitchen, bathroom ...... Thanks for all the ideas, and I appreciate the early timing, am looking for gifts for family in far away places right now, and keeping an eye on mailing deadlines.

One of my daughters pays for my tai chi class and we attend together. Another says she'll pay for my gym membership. One daughter and her husband take me for dinners after our Shakespeare outings in Vancouver. My son just paid for the "extras" like the cane I need after hip replacement surgery, and for tickets to the plays my grand kids are in at the local theater. Another son and his wife who live in Michigan send my grand son's drawings throughout the years, and gift cards for local stores. It's nice to have presents to unwrap but it is also nice to be asked what I want or need and to feel free to tell family and friends what I'd like.

Since everyone seems to need magnifiers occasionally I thought I would share an iPhone tip i just learned that will work if you have the latest IOS. Use your camera as an adjustable magnifier by going to Settings>General>Accessability>Magnifier and turn it on by sliding the switch. Works great! (If you have an iPhone...)

Love all these, original blog and comments. Most important thing for me is to get certificates or consumables. I am giving things away at this point in my life; sure don't want more clothes or jewelry. Last year I made note cards out of my own photographs. The local printing shop did sets of 8 different pictures for me. They were very well received. For some special people, I spent more money so I could give them framed photos of my work, printed on high quality paper.

In the past I've made homemade soups or sauces to give. I buy two season tickets to our UGA Performing Arts scholarship series so I can always take a friend who doesn't get out much. I can still drive so I want to share that blessing.

The second would be getting me out of the house, a play, trip to a museum, rides in the country, going to movies, all better with company. A big one-time house cleaning would be super. I like buying subscriptions as well although I found early research about what the giftee liked to read was a good idea.

No tchotchkes please, or any stuff that has to be stored, dusted, or put on a shelf. No candles, nothing scented.

Oops, the first favorite was the housecleaning.

Since I live in an area where elec power is lost quite often in winter, this year I'm giving LED lanterns to my older friends..also to a pal in FL for hurricane season. I found a good deal online 3 for $35...I think they are safer than candles. For my family it's $$$$ all the way. That's what teens want and parents can always use some extra quid.

Fresh flowers are always welcome and I am one of the few that enjoys scented candles. But my favorite gift is a personal note from a loved one saying what I mean to them and I try to send these myself.
By the way Ronni, TGB is a wonderful gift that you give to your readers. I hope we will be able to donate to the blog again.

May I suggest and assortment of basic toiletry items.
Shampoos, shower gels, toothpaste, toothbrush, mouthwash, deodorants, and maybe even a hairbrush or comb. And don't forget some disposable razors, shave cream and after shave for the guys.
For many seniors living on a tight budget, these items are often put at the bottom of the list.

If your gift recipient has a printer, it might be a good idea to give them some ink cartridges -- those can be quite expensive, yet so necessary.

Having someone clean all their windows could be a great gift for someone. Or raking up the autumn leaves might be helpful (or cleaning up dog poop in the backyard).

I'll give this some more thought and maybe we should devote another column on this subject in a week or two would give us some time to think of some real doozies.

Two words: GIFT CARDs! Our favorite is (we belong to Prime which ensures free shipping on most items). Although I worry sometimes that Amazon will take over the earth, you can't beat the convenience of prompt, free delivery for almost anything a person needs or wants--even kitty litter.

My husband I would also be appreciative of cold, hard CASH (contrary to popular opinion, my guess is that most elders except the very well-off would agree). What most older adults do NOT need or want is more "stuff" unless it's useful, like batteries or ink cartridges. We're trying to de-clutter or at least not add to the clutter we already have.

As usual, a thoughtful list. Last year I received magazine subscriptions. While thoughtful many of the magazines weren't those I was interested in and now I gave the hassle of convincing the publishers I no longer want Family Circle (aimed at young families cut some good recipes) 🐰Or Women's Health. A body building nag that is terrible body centric.. I'm a believer in loving and accepting the body you have! One grandson gave me a subscription to Time, which is quite welcome and which extended my own subscription and my eldest daughter renewed Rolling Stone for 5 years. Now this woman knows her mom.
Other welcome gifts were a warm bathrobe, a chair sized heating blanket for when I'm watching TV in my usually chilly living room and a visit to Whole Check(foods) for a splurge shopping trip if things I can't usually afford or that Freddy's does not carry. I lived nicely with the Bree cheese and lively sesame crackers nice wine and huge Texas ruby grapefruit for quite a while. What a treat that was.

I don't think this list was at all too early. I copy and send it to my kids and grandkids. I usually buy iTunes gift cards for the teens and nice beer and cheese gifts for the adults.

Happy Thanksgivung to all
Elle in Beaverton Or

The camera magnifier mentioned by Kathleen works on my iPad too. I just tried it -- thanks!

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