...and if not for other elders, perhaps as hints for family members who might not know what you would like to have.
If you hit the stores on black Friday, you're a braver person than I am. For me, one of the perks of not working any longer is that I can shop when most other people can't. Of course, the internet makes shopping easy too, but there are some things I want to see and touch before I purchase them.
Elders on your list often need more careful thought than younger people. They may have downsized into a smaller home and not have as much room as they once did. Some may be in elder care homes with an even smaller space. We become less acquisitive too. So gift choices should be useful, needed and be something won't complicate their lives.
Here are some suggestions and maybe they will spark more ideas you can leave in the comments below.
For Those in Elder Care Homes
When I have contemplated the possibility of someday needing to live somewhere with full-time care, I panic slightly at the idea of not having favorite foods available. Maybe others miss some favorites too. A subscription to a fruit-of-the-month club would be a fine gift. A supply of a favorite candy. A basket of a variety of knoshes – candies, cookies, dried fruit, nuts, flavored popcorn, crackers, peanut butter, etc. The kind of stuff a group home is unlikely to provide.
For Those with a Money Shortage
Almost every retired person lives on less money than when they were working and elders, who were hit particularly hard in the crash of October 2008, have little opportunity to recoup their losses. So some practical gifts could be in order.
For computer users, a supply of printer ink – it's particularly expensive when you're on a tight budget. If arthritis and/or eyesight is a problem, a large-key keyboard can help. An iPod filled with the music of some favorite performers. A collection of DVDs of favorite stars or film genres, or a year's subscription to Netflix which now includes instant movies to watch on a computer.
It's hard to buy clothing for others, but slippers, a new robe or a sweaters for chilly days can become welcome luxuries for people with limited income. Real luxuries are good too. Because it has become so expensive, I've given up the fragrance I had worn for 40 years. I miss it. And I don't often allow myself a bottle of port that I like to have around – the really good, expensive stuff. Other people's luxuries will be different, but they will be welcomed with joy.
Practicalities shouldn't be overlooked. Can you afford to pay the electric bill for a year for a loved one? Or the ISP bill? A cleaning person twice a month?
The Gift of Time
As necessary as it sometimes becomes, giving up driving is a horrendous loss of freedom. But that is an opportunity for many kinds of gifts of time. You can create gift certificates for a monthly restaurant meal together. Or regular trips to the mall or grocery store or the movies or theater. You could plan a vacation to include your elder for next summer.
Perhaps there are old friends nearby that he or she hasn't seen in person in a long time. What a terrific visit that would be. And sometimes people surprise you with what would please them. Although my mother still drove to the store and around her neighborhood, she got to the point where she wouldn't drive on highways.
When I was visiting once, she mentioned that she had always wanted to see the show at Sea World. I would not have guessed that in a hundred years. So I drove her there and she had a fine day (so did I).
How about bringing the family and all the fixings to cook dinner with an elder loved one once a month. Be sure to make enough for leftovers.
Elders have a lifetime of stories to tell, but many don't think they can write them. Offer to help write their life story. Pull out the photo albums to spark memories. Or you could interview your grandmother and write the story yourself. She would enjoy telling the stories and then you would have them for the grandchildren.
These should get you thinking and I have one more suggestion. Spend the coming year listening carefully to your elder relatives. What they mention, sometimes only in passing, are excellent hints for future gifts.
Most recently Life (Part 2), the PBS program hosted by Robert Lipsyte, investigated the scourge of old age, Alzheimer's Disease. Here is a clip from the show of Mary Ann Becklenberg who has early stage Alzheimer's:
You can watch the entire episode here.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lyn Burnstine: Plastic